Diplomatic row: India open to specific, relevant info, says Jaishankar on Canada's allegations

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. Photo: Reuters/Michael A McCoy

New York: In the wake of Canada's allegations about India's potential involvement in the killing of a Khalistani separatist on its soil, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said that New Delhi conveyed to Ottawa that it is not the government of India's policy and it is open to looking at specific and relevant information in the case.

“Yes, I do have a comment. I'll share with you very frankly what we told the Canadians,” Jaishankar said during a conversation at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) here Tuesday when asked if he had any comment on the allegations by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that agents of the government of India are linked to the killing of a Canadian Sikh.

"One, we told the Canadians that this is not the government of India's policy. Two, we told the Canadians saying that look, if you have something specific, if you have something relevant, let us know. We are open to looking at it, he said during a conversation with former US Ambassador to India and CFR Distinguished Fellow Kenneth Juster, in his first public comments on the issue.

Jaishankar asserted that one has to understand the context also because the picture is not complete without the context of it.

You also have to appreciate that in the last few years, Canada actually has seen a lot of organised crime relating to the secessionist forces, organised crime, violence, and extremism. They're all very, very deeply mixed up, he said.

The minister said India has been talking about specifics and information.

We have actually been badgering the Canadians, we have given them a lot of information about organised crime leadership, which operates out of Canada. There are a large number of extradition requests. There are terrorist leaders who have been identified, he said, adding that one has to understand that there is an environment out there.

“That is important in a way to factor in if you have to understand what is going on out there. And our concern is that it's really been very permissive because of political reasons. So we have a situation where actually our diplomats are threatened, our consulates have been attacked and often comments are made about there's interference in our politics. And, a lot of this is often justified as saying, well, that's how democracies work,” Jaishankar said

When asked by Juster whether the government of India will cooperate with Canada if there are specific pieces of evidence provided to it, Jaishankar said, “If somebody gives me something specific, it doesn't have to be restricted to Canada, but if there is any incident which is an issue and somebody gives me something specific, as a government I would look at it. Of course, I would look into it.”

Trudeau said in the Canadian Parliament that Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil on June 18 in British Columbia, a charge angrily rejected by New Delhi as "absurd" and "motivated".

Jaishankar was asked about reports that intelligence about the killing was shared among the Five Eyes, the intelligence-sharing alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States and that the FBI is telling Sikh leaders in the US that there are credible threats to them.

I'm not part of the Five Eyes. I'm certainly not part of the FBI. You are asking the wrong person, Jaishankar said.

He was then asked about Canadians providing documents to India that purported to show evidence that Indian officials in Canada were aware of the attack on Nijjar.

Are you saying the Canadians gave us documents, Jaishankar asked.

I have said that if somebody gives us specific or relevant information, we are prepared to look at it, he added.

When asked again if he had not received those intercepted communications from Canada, Jaishankar replied, “If I had, would I not be looking at it?”

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