Amid India-Canada diplomatic rift, S Jaishankar, Antony Blinken hold talks

Sep 29, 2023 05:59 AM IST

The ties between India and Canada have deteriorated since Justin Trudeau alleged that the Indian government could be behind the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

External affairs minister S Jaishankar and US secretary of state Antony Blinken met in Washington and discussed global developments and laid the groundwork for a 2+2 meeting during their wide-ranging talks, amid a diplomatic tussle between India and Canada over the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken and external affairs minister S Jaishankar meet at the state department in Washington. (REUTERS)
US secretary of state Antony Blinken and external affairs minister S Jaishankar meet at the state department in Washington. (REUTERS)

“Great to meet my friend US Secretary of State @SecBlinken at State Department today. A wide ranging discussion, following up on PM @narendramodi’s June visit. Also exchanged notes on global developments. Laid the groundwork of our 2+2 meeting very soon,” Jaishankar, who is currently on a five-day official trip to Washington DC, wrote on X (formally Twitter) on Friday.

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This was the highest-level interaction between the two countries after the recent G20 Summit in New Delhi. The fifth edition of India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue will be hosted by New Delhi, Jaishankar announced on Thursday. Although he did not reveal the dates of the meeting, it is learnt that the ministerial dialogue would be held in the first half of November.

Blinken and defence secretary Lloyd Austin would represent the US delegation. Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh will lead the Indian delegation.

However, on the current diplomatic tensions between India and Canada over the Nijjar's killing in British Columbia, New Delhi and Washington remained tight-lipped.

News agency PTI reported that Blinken refused to respond to reporters’ questions about the controversy.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome my friend and colleague, Foreign Minister Jaishankar, here to the State Department, back to Washington. We’ve had very good discussions over the last weeks – of course at the G20, in New York at the General Assembly – and I’m looking forward to pursuing them this afternoon,” Blinken said as he welcomed Jaishankar at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the state department.

“We have consistently engaged with the Indian government on this question and have urged them to cooperate,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters ahead of the meeting.

After the meeting, state department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement that Blinken and Jaishankar had “discussed a full range of issues, including key outcomes of India’s G20 presidency, and the creation of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor and its potential to generate transparent, sustainable, and high-standard infrastructure investments".

They also covered “the continued importance of cooperation ahead of the upcoming 2 2 Dialogue, in particular in the areas of defence, space, and clean energy,” Miller said. The “2+2” dialogue is a format for meetings between the US and Indian foreign and defence ministers.

“Good to be back here, and we, of course, had the prime minister here this summer. We thank the US for all the support at the G20 summit,” Jaishankar said in his brief remarks. Soon thereafter, the two leaders headed for the bilateral meeting, PTI reported.

Justin Trudeau hoped Blinken would address Nijjar killing issue

Earlier on Thursday, Trudeau said he had been told Blinken would address the matter and encourage the Indian government to cooperate with an investigation into the killing.

“The Americans have been with us in speaking to the Indian government about how important it is that they be involved in following up on the credible allegations that agents of the Indian government killed a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil,” Trudeau said.

“This is something all democratic countries, all countries that respect the rule, need to take seriously and we are moving forward in a thoughtful, responsible way anchored in the rule of law with all partners, including in our approach with the government of India,” he told reporters in Montrea

India-Canada ties after Nijjar killing

The relationship between New Delhi and Ottawa further deteriorated after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently alleged that the Indian government could be behind the killing of Nijjar. India, which had designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020, has rejected Canada's allegations as “absurd” and “motivated”.

On Tuesday, Jaishankar addressed the 78th General Assembly session of the United Nations and said respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs cannot be "exercises in cherry picking" as he asserted that the days when a few nations set the agenda and expected others to fall in line are over.

"We must never again allow an injustice like vaccine apartheid to recur. Climate action too cannot continue to witness an evasion of historical responsibilities. The power of markets should not be utilised to steer food and energy from the needy to the wealthy.

"Nor must we countenance that political convenience determines responses to terrorism, extremism and violence. Similarly, respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs cannot be exercises in cherry picking," the minister said, in an apparent reference to the US, which reportedly provided Canada with intelligence after the killing of Sikh Nijjar.

Jaishankar's remarks on the "political convenience" appears to be directed at Canada whose Trudeau.

Earlier on Thursday, Jaishankar visited the White House for a meeting with national security advisor Jake Sullivan. The White House did not issue a readout of the meeting.

“Recognized the tremendous progress in our bilateral relationship this year and discussed taking it forward,” the minister posted on X.

After a meeting with representatives of the think tanks from Washington DC, Jaishankar met US Trade Representative Katherine Tai. “Spoke about our expanding trade and economic relationship and its broader significance,” he wrote on X.

(With inputs from agencies)

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