India not ruling out investigation into Canada's allegations over Nijjar, but wants evidence: EAM Jaishankar
London | External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said that India is not ruling out an investigation into Canada's allegations about the involvement of the Indian government's agents in the killing of a Khalistani separatist in that country but wants it to provide evidence to back its claims.
Jaishankar made the comments on Wednesday in response to questions during a conversation with veteran journalist Lionel Barber titled ‘How a Billion People See the World' here.
"If you have a reason to make such an allegation, please share the evidence with us. We are not ruling out an investigation and looking at anything which they may have to offer. They haven't done so," Jaishankar, who was here on a five-day official visit to the UK, said while responding to a question.
The ties between India and Canada came under severe strain following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations in September of a "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 in British Columbia. India had designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020.
India has rejected Trudeau's allegations as "absurd" and "motivated".
Jaishankar also said Canadian politics has given space to violent and extreme political opinions which advocate separatism from India, including through violent means.
"These people have been accommodated in Canadian politics. They are given the freedom to articulate their views," he said.
Jaishankar said that freedom of speech and freedom of expression comes with a certain responsibility and the misuse of those freedoms and the toleration of that misuse for political purposes would be very wrong, referring to the pro-Khalistani activities in Canada.
Jaishankar said that he was in touch with his Canadian counterpart Melanie Joly on the issue.
He recalled the attacks on the High Commission of India in Canada, or smoke bomb attacks on the High Commission and Consulate General, and said Indian diplomats were intimidated in public, with no action from the Canadian authorities against culprits.
When asked if Jaishankar thought Nijjar was a terrorist, the foreign minister replied: “He has a track record which is there on the social media. That's a pretty graphic track record. I would let everyone form their own opinions.” Giving a comparison, Jaishankar said people know of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing but India faced a bigger incident involving Khalistani terrorists who threatened three Air India flights.
Last week, Prime Minister Trudeau underlined that a "fight" with India was not something Canada wanted to be having right now but reiterated his allegations and said Ottawa wants to "work constructively" with New Delhi on this "very serious matter".
Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said India has conveyed to the US side its serious concerns over increasing activities of pro-Khalistani elements in Canada.
"Insofar as Canada is concerned, we have been having very consistent conversations with all our friends and partners. Our position on this matter has been enunciated and explained in full detail on multiple occasions," Kwatra said in New Delhi recently.
Days after Trudeau's allegations in September, India temporarily suspended the issuance of visas to Canadian citizens and asked Ottawa to downsize its diplomatic presence in the country to ensure parity.
India resumed some visa services in Canada last month, more than a month after they were suspended.
On China, Jaishankar said that the 2020 deadly clash in the Galwan Valley has vitiated the relationship between the two countries.
He said China did not adhere to the agreements of 1993 and 1996 not to amass troops at the Line of Actual Control as he asserted that such acts of not following pacts have consequences in terms of credibility.
"It is important that agreements are kept. And then that doesn't happen that has consequences in terms of credibility and cost," he said.
On updates on resolving the border issue with China, Jaishankar said: "Since September 2020, we have solved a number of these situations, but there are some which are still under discussion. So this is still under discussion." On another question, he said India helped in managing global inflation through a strategic approach to oil purchases amid the Russia-Ukraine war.
While the West imposed sanctions and restrictions on Russia's oil exports since its war on Ukraine, India's refiners have been snapping up discounted Russian oil.
“So we've actually softened the oil markets and the gas markets through our purchase policies. We have, as a consequence, actually managed global inflation. I'm waiting for the thank you,” Jaishankar said.
The minister underlined India's strategic approach to oil purchases as a crucial factor in preventing a potential surge in global oil prices, thereby safeguarding the country's position in the international market against European competition.
"When it comes to the purchase...I think the global oil prices would have gone higher because we would have gone into the same market to the same suppliers that Europe would have done and as we discovered Europe would have outpriced us," Jaishanakar said.
“We saw that in the LNG markets where actually many supplies which were traditionally coming into Asia were diverted to Europe and in fact at least India was a big enough country to command some respect in the markets but there were much smaller countries who didn't even get responses to their tender in Paris because the LNG suppliers were no longer interested in dealing with them," he said.
Speaking on America's power in the context of the changing world, Jaishankar said that America today is "reinventing itself" and becoming more open which is shaping the Indo-Pacific and creating multilateral bodies like the Quad.
"I would say a divided America or a divided country would obviously be a less effective player on the international scene...America is the premier power of our times...I would say America has been actually, in the last few years, quite effective abroad in a variety of ways...I would say America today is a power which is reinventing itself. I don't think it's a power which is declining," he said.
On India's relations with Taiwan amid tensions with China, Jaishankar said, "We have substantial technology and economic and commercial relations with Taiwan and certainly Taiwan has a reputation when it comes to electronics and of course, more recently with semiconductors. So, there has been an upswing in the levels of cooperation." On another question, Jaishankar said that the tolerance in India has not gone down but Indians today are "more authentic" and less hypocritical about their beliefs, traditions and culture.
"For us, secularism does not mean being non-religious, but equal respect to all faiths. But what happened...we got into vote bank politics, a minoritarian pandering, that created backlash..In the name of equality of all religions, the biggest religion had to be self-deprecatory, and play itself down," he said.
"I'll say we are more Indian, we are more authentic," he said.