A month after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged that India was connected to Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing in the British Columbia state in June, reports have surfaced of back-channel talks between Delhi and Ottawa.
UK-based daily Financial Times claims External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Canadian counterpart Melanie Joly met last month in Washington DC. Jaishankar was also in Washington DC in September – he met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NSA Jake Sullivan.
“Joly held a secret meeting with India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar in Washington, said people familiar with the situation,” the report said.
It added, “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 One Canadian official said Ottawa had not withdrawn any diplomats ahead of the deadline.”
Joly had said this month 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 the Global News quoted her as saying.
Asked whether the Canada issue was discussed, Jaishankar, who was at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, 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.”
“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 was quoted as saying. “We were open to looking at it now. That’s where that conversation is at this point.”
The Indian Express reported that Delhi even asked Ottawa to withdraw about 40 of its diplomats to bring parity with the Indian diplomatic presence in Canada.
India has approximately 20 diplomats in Canada, as opposed to Canada which might have about 60 diplomats.
Jaishankar added that the Canadian Prime Minister made some allegations privately to start with and then publicly.
Meanwhile, a report by CNN-News18 claimed that a new hoarding labelling Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jaishankar and India’s high commissioner to Ottawa Sanjay Kumar Verma as ‘Wanted’ has been installed outside Gurdwara Nanak Dev in Surrey as a mark of protest against Nijjar’s killing.