There is room for diplomacy to address the diplomatic row between India and Canada, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday as the ties between the two sides remained strained following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of “potential” involvement of Indian agents in the killing of a Khalistani separatist.
The external affairs minister said both sides have been in touch and hoped that a way would be found to resolve the row. At the same time, he asserted that “sovereignty and sensitivity” cannot be one-way streets.
S Jaishankar was speaking at an interactive session at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
“I feel that there is room for diplomacy here. I know that my counterpart in Canada has also expressed the same position. So, we have been in touch,” he said.
“My hope certainly would be that we find a way…Sovereignty, sensitivity — these cannot be one-way streets. They may have their concerns. I have never ever with any country said that I am not willing to talk to them about their legitimate concerns,” he said.
“But it cannot be that the conversation is completely dismissive of my concerns and my sensitivities,” he added.
The ties between India and Canada came under severe strain following Trudeau’s allegations in September over the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June in the Canadian town of Surrey.
Days after Trudeau’s allegations, India announced temporarily suspending the issuance of visas to Canadian citizens and asked Ottawa to downsize its diplomatic presence in the country to ensure parity.
Canada has already withdrawn 41 diplomats and their family members from India.
Mr Jaishankar explained India’s overall proposition that he said could apply to Canada as well.
“There are many countries where there is freedom of speech and expression including India. But that cannot be a license to advocate violence and intimidation or to propagate separatism, extremism and worse,” he said.
“So the problem that we have faced is really that we have seen activities which have been justified in the name of freedoms,” he said.
“Now, I have a very simple smell test for every country in the world – which is if you think that is right, would you like that to be done to you? And mostly I don’t get an answer,” he added.
The external affairs minister said both sides have been in touch.
“It is a conversation that has been going on for a long time and unfortunately, in this particular case, in Canada, events took a certain turn,” he said.
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