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Canada cites threats, says adjusting diplomatic staff presence in India

Sep 21, 2023 12:31 PM IST

Trudeau’s claim of Indian involvement in Khalistani leade Nijjar’s killing triggered a diplomatic row this week and tit-for-tat expulsions of senior diplomats

Canada has decided “to temporarily adjust staff presence in India” out of an “abundance of caution” to ensure the safety of diplomats amid heightened tensions between the two countries, a spokesperson for the North American country’s foreign ministry has said, citing threats received on social media.

A poster asking for an investigation into India's role in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar at a gurdwara in Surrey, Canada. (REUTERS)
A poster asking for an investigation into India's role in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar at a gurdwara in Surrey, Canada. (REUTERS)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegation of Indian involvement in Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing triggered a diplomatic row this week and tit-for-tat expulsions of senior diplomats. India on Wednesday advised its citizens in Canada to exercise utmost caution due to growing anti-India activities and “politically-condoned hate crimes”.

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Canadian newspaper The National Post quoted a spokesperson for the country’s foreign ministry Global Affairs Canada saying they were taking action to ensure the safety of their diplomats in light of the heightened tensions. “With some diplomats having received threats on various social media platforms, Global Affairs Canada is assessing its staff complement in India,” the spokesperson said. “As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India. All of our locations are staffed by diplomats and locally engaged staff to ensure business and operational continuity.”

Canada has sought additional security around its missions including the high commission in New Delhi and consulates in Mumbai, Chandigarh, and Bengaluru.

The spokesperson cited the Vienna Convention for safeguarding diplomats and diplomatic premises, and added that they “expect India to provide for the security of our accredited diplomats and consular officers in India, just as we are for theirs here.”

Security has been enhanced at India’s missions in Canada as well for the seniormost diplomats after the secessionist outfit Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) released the “Kill India” posters in July and then a series of others that blamed New Delhi for Nijjar’s killing on June 18.

India has sought additional security at the high commission in Ottawa and consulates in Toronto and Vancouver after SFJ issued a threat to “shut down Indian missions” on September 25, describing them as “terror houses.”

Canada’s public safety minister Dominic LeBlanc separately said they did not accept India’s travel advisory and added New Delhi can explain why they issued it.

SFJ, which was banned in India in 2019 because of its pro-Khalistan activities, has threatened Hindus of Indian origin and asked them to leave Canada for supporting the country of their origin and “promoting violence” by celebrating Nijjar’s assassination.

Chandra Arya, a lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Party, raised the matter in the Canadian House of Commons on Wednesday. “I have heard from many Hindu-Canadians who are fearful after this targeted attack. I urge Hindu-Canadians to stay calm but vigilant.”

He said that “this direct attack on Hindu-Canadians by the leader of Canadian Khalistan movement is further escalation of the recent attacks on Hindu temples” and public celebration of the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. “Canada has high moral values and we fully uphold the rule of law,” he said. “I cannot understand how glorifying terrorism or a hate crime targeting a religious group is allowed in the name of freedom of speech and expression. There would be an outrage in Canada if a white supremacist attacked any group of Canadians asking them to get out of our country. But apparently, this Khalistani leader can get away with this hate crime.”

Pro-Khalistan elements in Canada have desecrated at least a dozen Hindu temples since last summer. Canadian law enforcement has not reported a single arrest in this regard.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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