External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday chaired the Parliamentary Consultative Committee to discuss India’s G20 Presidency. During the meeting, the parliamentarians raised several questions about the ongoing diplomatic stand-off between India and Canada, as per sources.
While the MPs appreciated India’s G20 presidency, they also sought answers on the India-Canada row, which has led to decisions such as halting of visas for Canadians and India seeking parity in diplomatic presence.
On the issue of the suspension of visas for Canadians, the External Affairs Minister said it was not a “retaliatory” measure, but one to ensure the safety of the Indian diplomats, sources said. “Curtailing services is because Indian diplomats are not safe in Canada. It is not a permanent decision but one that is conditional. The suspension of the visa situation may improve if and when the situation becomes better for Indians serving in embassies and consulates in Canada,” sources quoted Jaishankar as telling the Committee.
As per sources, Jaishankar told the consultative committee members, “We can open tomorrow if our diplomats are provided security.”
ON SEEKING PARITY IN DIPLOMATIC PRESENCE
On the issue of downsizing the Canadian mission in India to bring parity in numbers with Indian missions in Canada, Jaishankar said that New Delhi had been left with no choice.
“They are not willing to provide security, but want full immunity for their diplomats while they continue to interfere in our internal affairs and allow billboards threatening our diplomats to be put up in the name of freedom of speech. They have forced our hand on this,” the external affairs minister told the members, sources said.
ON PM MODI, TRUDEAU MEET ON SIDELINES OF G20
Sources said that during the meeting, the MPs discussed whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau had discussed the allegations of Indian agencies’ involvement in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The two leaders held talks on the sidelines of the G20 Summit held last month in New Delhi.
Diplomatic relations between India and Canada soured after Trudeau, on September 19, alleged a “potential” involvement of Indian agents” in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Jaishankar said that there was a bilateral meeting between the two world leaders where the matter was discussed. But while Trudeau raised concerns about the incident, it was PM Modi who did most of the talking and who raised concerns about the presence of Khalistani extremists in Canada and the safety of Indian missions and diplomats there, Jaishankar told the MPs, sources said.
The minister added that while other countries show concern and have taken measures (UK, US, Australia), Canada refused to acknowledge that there is a problem and that Indian diplomats have been facing threats under the garb of freedom of speech.
Jaishankar further told the Committee members that “evidence (of Indian agents’ involvement) is a far away thing. No proper information has been given yet”, said a source.
One of the MPs raised the concern that ordinary citizens would be affected by the India-Canada diplomatic row. To this, EAM Jaishankar said, “Our intention is not to make the common people suffer. We have given advisories to students.”
PUNJAB MP CALLS FOR CONSTRUCTIVE DIALOGUE
MP from Punjab, Vikramjit Singh Sahney, expressed his concerns over deteriorating India-Canada relations to the External Affairs Minister and handed over a memorandum to him. Sahney said that it is “really painful to witness the straining diplomatic relations between India and Canada,” according to a press statement issued by him.
He said, “The best way to redress the grievances is positive and constructive dialogue. Any measure to close visa facilities in Canada or reduce the visa facilities in India for visiting Canada will cause a lot of hardships to the kith and kin of millions of Indian families and students who are residing in Canada. We can’t make common citizens of both countries suffer owing to certain fringe elements.”