Canada has withdrawn a substantial number of its diplomats from India due to the failure of the two nations to resolve a dispute. This dispute revolves around Ottawa’s allegations of potential involvement by New Delhi in the murder of a Canadian citizen.
Canada’s Foreign Minister, Mélanie Joly, confirmed the withdrawal of 41 out of 62 diplomats from India. Over the past few weeks, Canada and India have engaged in negotiations regarding the fate of these diplomats. India had set an October 10 deadline for their departure.
Previously, reports surfaced of a secret meeting between Joly and India’s Foreign Minister, S. Jaishankar, in Washington. However, these negotiations failed to yield an agreement allowing Canadian diplomats to remain in India.
During a press conference on Thursday, Joly verified the departure of the diplomats from India. She explained that Ottawa withdrew them after receiving notice from New Delhi that their diplomatic immunity would cease as of October 20.
Joly strongly criticized this unilateral revocation of diplomatic privileges and immunities as a violation of international law and a breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, characterizing it as an unreasonable and escalatory action.
When asked about the progress in negotiations, including her meeting with Jaishankar, Joly maintained the confidentiality of diplomatic discussions, emphasizing the importance of privacy in diplomatic matters.
The withdrawal of diplomats led Canada to suspend operations at its three consulates in India, located in Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chandigarh. The 41 diplomats who departed were accompanied by 42 dependents.
New Delhi invoked the Vienna Convention, emphasizing the need for “parity” in the number and rank of diplomats each country has within the other’s borders. Canada had more diplomats in India than New Delhi had in Canada, primarily due to a substantial consular section responsible for processing visas for families of the approximately 1.3 million Canadians of Indian heritage.
Joly stressed the importance of upholding the norm of diplomatic immunity to ensure the safety of diplomats worldwide, and thus, Canada would not reciprocate in kind.
This diplomatic rift originated when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged “credible allegations” of India’s potential involvement in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh leader advocating for an independent Sikh state in India, which took place in Vancouver.
India vehemently denied these Canadian allegations, branding them as “absurd.” The matter was also raised by U.S. President Joe Biden in discussions with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India consistently emphasized the lack of evidence from Canada, noting that Canadian officials who traveled to India to discuss the matter had only presented the evidence verbally due to concerns about revealing intelligence-related information.
Joly did not disclose whether Canada had presented evidence to India but indicated that “information was shared.” Meanwhile, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police continues its investigation into the murder of Nijjar.