India’s External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, addressed the press in Washington DC, shedding light on the disturbing cases of threats, violence, and intimidation against Indian diplomats and missions in Canada. He emphasized the importance of not normalizing the situation in Ottawa and questioned how other countries would react if faced with a similar scenario.
Climate of Violence and Intimidation: Minister Jaishankar underscored the unsettling climate of violence and intimidation that has gripped Indian diplomats and missions in Canada. He recounted incidents of smoke bombs being thrown at the Indian mission, acts of violence near Indian consulates, and individuals being targeted and intimidated. The presence of posters targeting individuals further exacerbated the situation. Jaishankar asked the crucial question: “So tell me, do you consider this normal? Okay, this is about this…if this had happened to any other country, how would they react to it? I think it is a reasonable question to ask.”
Drawing Attention to the Situation: Jaishankar stressed the need to draw attention to the ongoing situation in Canada and discouraged normalizing the troubling events. He raised concerns about whether the world would respond with the same equanimity if such incidents had transpired in any other country.
He stated, “And our point is this: There may be an individual incident. Yes, if there is an incident and there is an investigation and there are allegations, you know there are processes involved in it… nobody is disputing that…but to say what else is happening is part of the course…because there is freedom of speech, to make threats and intimidate diplomats. I don’t think it’s acceptable.”
Diplomatic Crisis Between India and Canada: Minister Jaishankar’s remarks came against the backdrop of a growing diplomatic crisis between India and Canada. The tension escalated after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India of involvement in the murder of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar earlier in the month. India vehemently denied these allegations.
Jaishankar explained the situation, stating, “The Canadian PM made some allegations initially privately, and then publicly. And, our, response to him, both in private and public, what he was alleging was not consistent with our policy. And that if he had, if his government had anything relevant and specific they would like us to look into, we were open to looking at it.”
Canada’s Permissive Attitude and Concerns: Highlighting the long-standing friction between India and Canada, Jaishankar voiced concerns about what he deemed a “permissive Canadian attitude” towards terrorists and extremists who openly advocate violence. He noted the presence of individuals who have been granted operating space in Canada due to political considerations.
Jaishankar expressed his concerns about the “toxic combination of issues and people” currently operating in Canada. He stated, “For us, it has certainly been a country where, organized crime from India, mixed with trafficking in people, mixed with secessionism, violence, terrorism…Today, I’m actually in a situation where my diplomats are unsafe going to the embassy, or the consulate in Canada. They are publicly intimidated. And that has compelled me to temporarily suspend even visa operations in Canada.”
Minister Jaishankar further informed that he had discussed the matter with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who shared their views and assessments of the situation. As the situation unfolds, diplomatic channels remain open, but concerns about the safety of Indian diplomats in Canada persist.