India said Thursday it wants parity with Canada on diplomatic presence, indicating that Ottawa should reduce the number of its officials in the country amid tensions over the killing of a Sikh separatist leader.
(Bloomberg) — India said Thursday it wants parity with Canada on diplomatic presence, indicating that Ottawa should reduce the number of its officials in the country amid tensions over the killing of a Sikh separatist leader.
Both countries are still in discussions “on the modalities of achieving this,” Arindam Bagchi, a spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters in New Delhi.
“We have sought parity in diplomatic presence,” he said. “Canadian diplomatic presence is very much higher. We would assume that there would be a reduction.”
The development follows comments on Tuesday from Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joy, who underlined the need for a strong diplomatic footprint in India during times of conflict. Joy said Canada is in “constant cooperation and dialogue with India” to address the issue.
The Financial Times reported earlier this week that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government told Canada it must repatriate 41 diplomats — out of 62 currently in India — by Oct. 10. The Canadian government has an embassy in New Delhi and consulates in Bengaluru, Chandigarh and Mumbai.
Ties between the nations fell to their lowest point in decades after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau linked Indian agents with assassinating a prominent Sikh leader in Canada. New Delhi has called the allegations “absurd” and denied involvement in the June 18 shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen who was pushing for an independent Sikh homeland in India.
Both countries expelled senior diplomats as a consequence. India also suspended visa services for Canadians and issued an advisory warning its residents against traveling to Canada.
Read More: Aftermath of an Assassination: Inside the India-Canada Crisis
The diplomatic spat has put the US in an awkward position. Washington spent years courting Modi as part of an Indo-Pacific strategy to halt China’s economic and military expansion. But the US also shares close ties with Canada, a Group of Seven country and a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance.
“We take these allegations very seriously, and we continue to not just work closely with our Canadian partners, but have, as I said, publicly and privately urged the Indian government to cooperate with Canada,” State Department Spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters Tuesday.
Trudeau this week reiterated that Canada hopes to maintain ties with India as the murder investigation develops.
“We’re not looking to escalate,” he said. “We’re going to be doing the work that matters in continuing to have constructive relations with India during this extremely difficult time.”
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