Balancing Free Speech and Preventing Violence: S. Jaishankar's Perspective
Balancing Free Speech and Preventing Violence: S. Jaishankar's Perspective

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar emphasized the potential for diplomacy to address the ongoing diplomatic dispute between India and Canada, which has been strained since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged the "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of a Khalistani terrorist.

Speaking at a Media Program, Jaishankar noted that both sides have remained in contact and expressed hope for a resolution to the ongoing row. He underlined the importance of recognizing that "sovereignty and sensitivity" should not operate in one direction alone.

Jaishankar stated, "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 further elaborated, "My hope certainly would be that we find a way...Sovereignty, and 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 added, "But it cannot be that the conversation is completely dismissive of my concerns and my sensitivities."

The strained relationship between India and Canada escalated after Trudeau's allegations in September regarding the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June in the Canadian town of Surrey. In response, India temporarily suspended the issuance of visas to Canadian citizens and urged Canada to reduce its diplomatic presence in India to achieve parity. Canada subsequently withdrew 41 diplomats and their family members from India.

Jaishankar reiterated India's broader perspective, which he suggested could apply to Canada as well. He emphasized that while many countries, including India, uphold freedom of speech and expression, such freedom should not be misused to advocate violence, intimidation, or promote separatism, extremism, or worse.

He stated, "So the problem that we have faced is really that we have seen activities which have been justified in the name of freedoms." Jaishankar emphasized the importance of a universal standard, saying, "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."

Jaishankar noted that both sides have been engaged in ongoing conversations and acknowledged the complex nature of the issue.

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