In a thinly veiled barb at Canada amid an ongoing diplomatic stand-off, Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar on Tuesday urged the United Nations (UN) member states to not allow political convenience to determine response to terrorism and violence.
Speaking at the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, Jaishankar also said that there cannot be any cherry-picking when it comes to respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs.
Jaishankar's remarks come at a time when India and Canada are locked in an exchange of blows over the allegation of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that India could be behind the killing of a Canadian national —designated terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar— on Canadian soil earlier this year. The allegation and the subsequent escalatory steps have driven the India-Canada relations to a new low.
In an apparent swipe at Canada, Jaishankar also said that when the reality of the stand on subject of respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs is not in line with the rhetoric, it must be called out.
"Nor must we countenance that political convenience determines responses to terrorism, extremism and violence. Similarly, respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs cannot be exercises in cherry-picking. When reality departs from rhetoric, we must have the courage to call it out," said Jaishankar.
Jaishankar also pitched for the reform of the world-order and urged the UN to take inspiration from the expansion of the Group of 20 (G-20) and reform the UN Security Council (UNSC). He hailed the inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member of the G-20 during the G-20 Summit earlier this month under India's presidency.
"It was also noteworthy that at India's initiative, the African Union as a permanent member of the G20. By doing so, we gave voice to an entire continent which has long been its due. This significant step in reform should inspire the United Nations, a much older organisation, to also make the Security Council contemporary," said Jaishankar, who further noted that India also hosted the Voice of the Global South Summit at the start of the Indian presidency to focus on the" growth and development" of the "most vulnerable" people in the world.
Jaishankar further said, "In our deliberations, we often advocate the promotion of a rules-based order. From time to time, respect for the UN Charter is also involved. But for all the talk, it is still a few nations who shape the agenda and seek to define the norms. This can't go on indefinitely nor will it go unchallenged. A fair, equitable, and democratic order will surely emerge once we all put our minds to it."
Continuing the Indian stand on equitable world-order, Jaishankar also raised the issue of "vaccine apartheid". This appears to be a reference to the early period of the Covid-19 pandemic when much of the developed world booked most of the Covid-19 vaccine doses, much more than what their populations needed, leaving little supplies for the developing and the most vulnerable countries.
"We must never again allow an injustice like vaccine apartheid to recur. Climate action too cannot continue to witness an evasion of historical responsibilities. The power of markets should not be utilized to steer food and energy from the needy to the wealthy," said Jaishankar.
Jaishankar also hailed the Chandrayaan-3 mission and the passage of Women Reservation Bill at the UNGA. He also mentioned the multilateral groupings that India is part of, such as the Quad, BRICS, and I2U2.
"India also seeks to promote cooperation with diverse partners. From the era of non-alignment, we have now evolved to that of 'Vishwa Mitra - a friend to the world'. This is reflected in our ability and willingness to engage with a broad range of nations and where necessary harmonise interests. It is visible in the rapid growth of the QUAD. It is equally apparent in the expansion of the BRICS grouping or emergence of I2U2," said Jaishankar.
Jaishankar also said that world is witnessing an "exceptional period of turmoil" at the moment and the UNGA serves as a platform to take stock of the achievements and challenges in managing such a period.
Earlier, media reports had said that Jaishankar might use the UNGA speech to rebut and rubbish the Canadian allegations against India, but he only indirectly addressed the matter in his speech. For a long time, India-Canada relations have been strained over the safe haven that the Khalistan terrorist movement and organised criminal syndicates have found in the country. The tensions have only increased since Trudeau took over as the Prime Minister of Canada as the Khalistan elements have found increased tolerance and encouragement from his, his ministers, and allies.
The Khalistan movement seeks to carve out a separate Sikh nation out of India called Khalistan. For decades, the movement waged a bloody insurgency in India that finally ebbed in the 1990s. While the insurgency ebbed in the 1990s, the movement has found strong pockets of influence abroad, most notably in Canada where a number of terrorist organisations and leaders are based and have found fertile ground to engage in anti-India activities.
India has forcefully rejected Trudeau's allegations, calling them "absurd". Following Trudeau's allegations, India issued an advisory warning of "politically-condoned" anti-India activities in Canada. The phrase "politically-condoned" reflects the support that the Khalistan movement and anti-India elements in Canada receive from Trudeau, his party and allies, and his government. In the past two weeks, Khalistani terrorists in Canada have issued open threats to Hindus living there and have organised protests at Indian missions.