Foreign Ministers of India, Australia Discuss India-Canada Dispute

Noting that Australia had “good strong relationship” with both India and Canada, S. Jaishankar said, “So, it was important that Australia get our perspective on the issue.”

New Delhi: The ongoing tensions between New Delhi and Ottawa were raised in the talks between the foreign ministers of India and Australia, with external affairs minister S. Jaishankar reiterating that the “real issue” was the space given to “extremism and radicalism”.

At a media briefing on Tuesday, Jaishankar confirmed that the Canadian issue was raised during the talks with his Australian counterpart, Penny Wong, who was also in Delhi to attend the ‘2 plus 2’ meeting.

Noting that Australia had “good strong relationship” with both India and Canada, he said, “So, it was important that Australia get our perspective on the issue.”

“From our point of view, the key issue is really the space which is being given to extremism and radicalism in Canada,” he said.

Australian foreign minister Penny Wong said that she had listened to Jaishankar’s perspective, but she didn’t repeat Canberra’s position. “I will point to my previous comments on this matter on which I have responded on a number of occasions.”

Relations between India and Canada nose-dived after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went public with a potential involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 in British Columbia. India considers Nijjar to be a Khalistani terrorist.

India firmly dismissed Trudeau’s claims as “absurd” and “motivated”. India and Canada expelled a senior diplomat each in a tit-for-tat measure. Besides, India also stopped all visa services for Canadians, which was partially resumed earlier this month. Additionally, India enforced “parity” in diplomatic representation at Canadian missions, leading to the withdrawal of 41 diplomats.

After Trudeau had made the accusations in September, Wong had expressed “deep concern” at the allegations and said that it had been conveyed at senior levels to India.

At that time, Wong’s statement had also noted that the allegations could be “particularly concerning to some Australian communities”. “The Indian diaspora are valued and important contributors to our vibrant and resilient multicultural society, where all Australians can peacefully and safely express their views,” she said, through her spokesperson.

In an interview to The Hindu newspaper, Wong was asked whether Australia had taken action against Khalistani extremist groups as requested by India. “In relation to that I’d say is we respect your sovereignty. And we also are very clear about the line between peaceful protests, freedom of expression and violence and vandalism,” she said, during her current visit to India.

Last month, Australia’s head of domestic intelligence reiterated the ‘Five Eyes’ nations’ backing of Canada, stating that there was “no reason to dispute” Trudeau’s assertions regarding the involvement of the Indian government agents in the killing of a Canadian citizen. The ‘Five Eyes’ network is an intelligence-sharing alliance that comprises the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.