India asks Canada to recall several dozen diplomats
The move follows an announcement by the external affairs ministry last month that the Canadian government had been informed about the need for “parity in strength and rank equivalence”
India has asked Canada to withdraw several dozen diplomats from its missions in the country, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday amid the diplomatic row over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegation linking Indian agents to the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
The move follows an announcement by the external affairs ministry last month that the Canadian government had been informed about the need for “parity in strength and rank equivalence” in mutual diplomatic presence. This was expected to lead to a reduction in Canada’s diplomatic presence, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said.
Since the announcement by the ministry, an exercise had been underway to determine the number of diplomats Canada would be asked to withdraw, one of the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
“That exercise has been completed and the number has been conveyed to the Canadian side,” he said, without giving details.
A second person added, “We had already spoken about the need for parity in mutual diplomatic presence. The number of Canadian diplomats in India is much higher.”
The people didn’t provide specific details about the number of diplomats Canada will have to withdraw.
A report by Financial Times said Canada had 62 diplomats in India and India has asked for this figure to be reduce by 41 people. The Canadian diplomats must be repatriated by October 10, the report said.
“One person said India had threatened to revoke the diplomatic immunity of diplomats who remain after that date,” the report added.
Canada has a larger diplomatic presence in India because of the needs of the consular sections at its missions, which handle the high volume of visa applications from the country, the people cited above said.
The development marks a further escalation of the diplomatic spat over the killing of Nijjar, a Canadian citizen was shot dead in the parking lot of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in the town of Surrey in British Columbia on June 18.
Hours after Trudeau’s claim on September 18 of a “potential link” between Indian government agents and the killing of Nijjar in June, India dismissed the accusation as “absurd and motivated”.
The two countries also carried out tit-for-tat expulsions of senior diplomats and India subsequently suspended all visa services for Canadian nationals and asked Canada to downsize its diplomatic presence in the country.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar has said that India is yet to receive any information through official channels from Canada that backed up Trudeau’s allegation.
He also said India will consider any information that is provided by Canada, while making it clear that it is not the Indian government’s policy to engage in acts such as the killing of Nijjar.
Nijjar was earlier designated a terrorist by the Indian government for his involvement in pro-Khalistan activities, and the external affairs ministry has described Canada as a “safe haven” for extremists and terrorists.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Bagchi told a media briefing on September 19 that Canada should act on “very specific evidence” shared by India about criminal activities by terrorists and extremists based on Canadian soil.
He also pointed to Pakistan’s involvement in funding and supporting such elements in Canada.