Jaishankar met Canada Foreign Minister amid row, says report – The Indian Express

In an indication of back-channel talks following the diplomatic row between Delhi and Ottawa after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged a potential India government link to the killing of Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Canadian counterpart Melanie Joly met last month in Washington DC, according to UK-based daily Financial Times.
While there was no official word on the meeting from the Indian side, the FT report said, “Joly held a secret meeting with India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar in Washington, said people familiar with the situation.”
The report also said “Ottawa was trying to resolve the situation with New Delhi, which had warned that diplomats who stayed beyond the deadline would lose diplomatic immunity, said several people familiar with the situation. One Canadian official said Ottawa had not withdrawn any diplomats ahead of the deadline.”
Delhi had asked Ottawa to withdraw about 40 of its diplomats to bring parity with the Indian diplomatic presence in Canada.
India has about 20 diplomats in Canada, while Canada, sources said, has three times more — about 60 diplomats.
Jaishankar was in Washington DC in the last week of September and met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NSA Jake Sullivan.
While there, Jaishankar had said that the Canada issue did come up in his discussions with Blinken and Sullivan. Blinken had “urged” India to “cooperate fully” with the ongoing Canadian investigation into Nijjar’s killing.
At the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, Jaishankar, responding to a question whether the Canada issue was discussed, had said, “To your question… Yes, I did with Jake Sullivan and Tony Blinken… They shared US views and assessments on this whole situation and I explained to them at some length… a summary of the concerns I had. I think hopefully we both came out better informed.”
And, on the state of play between India and Canada on the allegations, Jaishankar said that the Canadian Prime Minister made some allegations “initially privately” and “then publicly”.
“Our response to him, both in private and public, was that his allegation was not consistent with our policy. And if he had, his government had anything relevant and specific, we would look into,” he said. “We were open to looking at it now. That’s where that conversation is at this point of time,” he said.
It is possible that Jaishankar and Joly would have met in Washington DC. At that point of time, there was no word about their meeting in the US.
Washington emerged as a key interlocutor between Delhi and Ottawa – Canada is a close US ally and India a strong strategic partner.
In early October, Foreign Minister Joly had said that she will continue to engage “privately” with India. She had told reporters in Ottawa that the Canadian government believes in having a “strong diplomatic footprint” in India.
“We are in contact with the Government of India. We take Canadian diplomats’ safety very seriously, and we will continue to engage privately because we think that diplomatic conversations are best when they remain private,” she had said.
“In moments of tensions – because indeed there are tensions between both our governments more than ever – it’s important that diplomats be on the ground, and that’s why we believe in the importance of having a strong diplomatic footprint in India,” she was quoted saying by Global News.
Ever since the diplomatic standoff began with Delhi rejecting Trudeau’s allegation, at least five senior US officials and diplomats – Blinken, Sullivan, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti and US Ambassador to Canada David Cohen – have made public statements: all of them measured with a nuanced message for both sides. In short, asking Delhi to cooperate, but also asking Ottawa to not jump the gun.
India has rejected the Canadian allegation, calling it “absurd” and “motivated”. It has accused Ottawa of not acting against the Khalistan separatists in Canada, and not sharing any specific information on the killing of Nijjar. But at the same time, it has opened a window for cooperation, saying if any specific information is provided, Delhi would look into it.
Shubhajit Roy read more


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