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23 Oct, 2023 09:47

India-Canada relations going through ‘difficult phase’ – New Delhi

India’s foreign minister has reiterated New Delhi’s position on Ottawa’s “continuous interference” in his country’s affairs amid a deepening diplomatic row
India-Canada relations going through ‘difficult phase’ – New Delhi

India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has warned that his country and Canada are going through “a difficult phase” of their relationship amid the deepening diplomatic row over the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada.

The minister’s was speaking on Sunday, just days after Ottawa was ordered to withdraw 41 of its diplomats, as a result of what New Delhi called “continued interference” in its affairs.

“The relationship right now is going through a difficult phase. But I do want to say that the problems we have are with a certain segment of Canadian politics and the policies which flow from that,” Jaishankar said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in September said his government had “credible intelligence” regarding the possible involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Nijjar. However, no evidence has been made public so far. India has vehemently denied the allegations as absurd.

Admitting that there are a lot of concerns both in India and Canada regarding visas, given that India stopped issuing visas to Canadians days after Trudeau levied his allegations against New Delhi, Jaishankar said the decision was made due to concerns regarding the safety of Indian diplomats in Canada. He then added that he hoped that the situation would improve and that there would be progress in ensuring safety. “So if we see progress there, I would like very much to resume the issuance of visas. My hope is that it would be something which should happen very soon," he said.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly last week labeled New Delhi’s pressure on Ottawa to downsize its diplomatic presence in India as “completely unreasonable and escalatory” and a “clear violation” of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

Jaishankar responded by reiterating that India’s key concern was “continuous interference” in its affairs by Canadian diplomats.  “We haven’t made much of that public. My sense is, over a period of time, more stuff will come out and people will understand why we had the kind of discomfort with many of them which we did,” he added.

“There's this whole issue of parity that the size of how many diplomats there are of one country versus how many diplomats there are of the other country. Parity is very much provided for by the Vienna Convention, which is the relevant international rule on this,” Jaishankar was quoted by ANI as saying.

After the expulsion of the Canadian diplomats from India, Ottawa noted that the “mass expulsion” would impact the operations of the Canadian mission. “India’s decision will impact levels of services to citizens of both countries,” the statement asserted. All in-person services in Canadian consulates in Chandigarh, Mumbai, and Bengaluru are being temporarily suspended. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also stated on Friday that the Indian government's crackdown on Canadian diplomats was making the lives of millions of people “unbelievably difficult.”