US should take note of India’s views: Jaishankar amid Canada row

Oct 01, 2023 12:53 AM IST

India's EAM Jaishankar, has called on the US to take note of India's viewpoint on Canada's allegations and to have accurate information on the subject


S Jaishankar (ANI)
S Jaishankar (ANI)

Outlining his conversations with American officials on the issue of Canada’s allegations, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said that as a good friend of India and very close to Canada, it was important for the US to take note of India’s viewpoint and have accurate information on the subject.

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He also raised the issue of an attack on the Indian consulate in San Francisco with the US and the need for action against the perpetrators and said that as a democracy, India did not require lessons in freedom of speech and understood well when the line was crossed to incite violence and that freedom was abused.

While saying that a lot of Americans were “astonished” at the environment of permissiveness for violence and extremism in Canada — a function of how India and US saw Canada differently — Jaishankar said the bilateral relationship between New Delhi and Washington DC was much broader and his bilateral conversations covered a range of issues of cooperation and areas where interests of both sides intersected.

Jaishankar was speaking at a media briefing in Washington DC on Friday, when he answered questions on Canada’s allegation linking “agents” of the government of India with a possible killing of a Canadian citizen, a man India had designated as a terrorist, and his conversations with US in this regard.

Asked if the US had shared with India the intelligence that, according to news reports, it had shared with Canada on the issue, Jaishankar said there was an assumption in that question and his discussions weren’t based on press reports, but had a real basis, based on the relationship that India and the US had with each other and the larger issue of the “permissiveness” for terror, violence, crime and extremism in Canada.

“A lot of Americans are astonished…In India, it will not come as a surprise to anybody if you tell them there are people in Canada who are advocating violence or advocating separatism, there is a history out there. All Indians notice, I suspect very few Americans notice,” Jaishankar said, reiterating a point he made at an earlier think tank event in DC that when Americans looked at Canada, and when Indians looked at Canada, they saw something different.

That is why, he said, it was important to talk to the US about the issue. “After all, you know, they are very close to Canada, they are good friends of ours. So it’s important that they also have an accurate picture, that they have our point of view on this matter as well.”

Given that the US side has urged India, in its public statements, to cooperate with the Canadian investigation while India has said it was willing to look at relevant and specific information on the issue, HT asked Jaishankar whether the Americans had conveyed in private conversations what was the nature of cooperation they were seeking from India.

“I saw what the Americans have said, and I think, hopefully, the Americans have seen what I have said. And I think both of us have articulated our respective views,” the minister responded. “So I really don’t know beyond that what is it I can add to it because there wasn’t anything in the conversation there by which I could further embellish this particular point.”

Jaishankar said he had flagged in the US a point that India had also flagged to Canada. “We are a democracy, we don’t need to learn from other people what freedom of speech is about. But we can tell people this, we don’t think freedom of speech extends to incitement to violence. That to us is misuse of freedom. It’s not a defence of freedom. And I always ask people one question, how would you react if you were in my shoes? If it was your diplomats, your embassies, your people? What would be your reaction?”

Jaishankar said he was neither “prejudging” the issue, nor was he taking an “absolutist” position, but it was important that the debate focused on a longstanding and serious issue. “I was thinking back, when was the last time that any of our missions was intimidated to a point where it could not continue with its normal function? I really have to think back. And if someone says this could happen in a G7 country in a Commonwealth country, you know, it gives you a lot to think about.”

Jaishankar also underlined that India and the US have a much broader partnership, and it was in the interests of transparency that he was speaking about the conversation on Canada with the US, but this didn’t mean there weren’t other bilateral issues on the table. “We discussed other things. Our relationship has many dimensions, many areas of cooperation,” he said, pointing to the convergences and intersections when both nations looked at the world.

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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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