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11 Oct, 2023 09:20

Canadian diplomats still in India despite order to leave – FT

New Delhi reportedly asked Ottawa to withdraw 41 of its 62 staff in the country amid a diplomatic row
Canadian diplomats still in India despite order to leave – FT

Canada did not withdraw any diplomats stationed in India ahead of the October 10 deadline set by New Delhi for them to leave, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday. Talks are said to be ongoing to “resolve differences” amid a deepening diplomatic row between the two nations.  

Last month, New Delhi reportedly asked Ottawa to withdraw 41 of its 62 diplomats stationed in the country, following Canadian allegations that the Indian government was involved in the assassination of a prominent Sikh activist. Hardeep Singh Nijjar was gunned down in British Columbia, Canada on June 18.  

According to the FT, New Delhi warned it would revoke diplomatic immunity for those who remained in India after the deadline. Ottawa is “trying to resolve the situation with New Delhi” and did not withdraw any diplomats ahead of the deadline, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed Canadian officials.   

The number of Canadian diplomats posted in India is significantly higher than the Indian presence in Canada. According to Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, Canada’s “continued interference” in India’s internal affairs justifies its call for parity. 

Last Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with his UK counterpart, Rishi Sunak, who is of Indian descent, to update him on the situation.  

“The prime minister reaffirmed the UK’s position that all countries should respect sovereignty and the rule of law, including the principles of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” said a statement released by Downing Street, which added that Sunak “hoped to see a de-escalation in the situation.”  

On Sunday, Trudeau also spoke with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan.  

Trudeau first raised the allegations with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to New Delhi to attend the G20 Summit. Speaking in the Canadian parliament last month, Trudeau alleged that Ottawa has “credible allegations” linking the killing of Nijjar to “agents of the Indian government.” The activist was a key figure in the movement for a separate Sikh state in India and was designated a “terrorist” by New Delhi in 2020. The allegations were angrily dismissed by India as “absurd.” 

According to Canadian state broadcaster CBC, the allegations are based on surveillance of Indian officials in Canada and also intelligence received from Ottawa’s partners in the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing alliance – the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.  

Following Trudeau’s allegations, Canada and India each expelled one diplomat. The countries also revised guidelines for travel, while India stopped issuing visas to Canadians. 

Trudeau said in September that Canada had shared evidence with India “many weeks ago” regarding the killing and wants New Delhi to work constructively with Ottawa to establish the facts in the “very serious matter.” However, he is yet to make the evidence public. Four retired and two serving Indian security and intelligence officials familiar with the operations of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the country’s foreign intelligence agency, denied in an interview with Reuters that it engages in “targeted killings.”   

As tensions continue to be strained, Trudeau has said he wants to “de-escalate” the situation. The Canadian prime minister and Foreign Minister Melanie Joly last week said Ottawa was trying to resolve the stand-off “in private.” Joly also held a secret meeting in Washington with India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, when he was in the US to attend the session of the UN General Assembly.