Highlighting incidents of threats, violence, and intimidation against Indian diplomats and missions in Canada, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar questioned whether the reaction would have been the same if a similar situation had occurred in any other country.
He further emphasized that the situation in Ottawa should not be normalized.
Addressing a press conference in Washington DC on Friday, S Jaishankar said, “...Our point is that there is today a climate of violence, an atmosphere of intimidation...Just think about it. We have had smoke bombs thrown at the mission. We have had our consulates…violence in front of them. Individuals have been targeted and intimidated. There are posters put up about people”.
“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 reasonable question to ask,” he added.
Jaishankar said that the ongoing situation in Canada should not be regarded as normal, and it is crucial to draw attention to what is happening there.
“Let's not normalize what is happening in Canada. What is happening in Canada, had it happened anywhere else, had the world taken it with equinamity…had those countries taken it so calmly? So I think it's necessary to call out what is happening there,” Jaishankar said.
He added, “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”.
Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged that the Indian government is involved in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Stating that India does not require lessons from others on the concept of freedom of speech, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar,in an apparent reference to Canada, said that freedom of expression should not extend to incitement of violence.
Jaishankar said, “…I flagged here (in US), and I flagged this to the Canadians as well. 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 the misuse of freedom, that’s not defence of freedom”.
He further posed a question, asking how other countries would react if they were in India's position, with their diplomats, embassies, and citizens facing intimidation.
“How would you react if you were in my shoes? If it was your diplomats, your embassy, your people, what would be your reaction?” he added.
On being asked about Indian concerns regarding the attack on Indian consulate in San Francisco in July this year, the EAM said that the issue was raised during his visit to the US and described it as an ongoing discussion.
In July this year, a group of pro-Khalistan supporters allegedly attempted to set fire to the Consulate in San Francisco. There was no major damage nor any injuries and police were carrying out an investigation into the incident.
Following the incident, the US strongly condemned the reported vandalism and attempted arson by pro-Khalistan supporters against the Indian Consulate in San Francisco.