India rejected accusations from Ottawa that it was violating international rules by insisting Canada withdraw dozens of diplomats from the country, a sign that tensions between the two countries remain high.
(Bloomberg) — India rejected accusations from Ottawa that it was violating international rules by insisting Canada withdraw dozens of diplomats from the country, a sign that tensions between the two countries remain high.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Thursday it relocated 41 staff from its embassy and consulates in India, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had threatened to revoke their immunity if they didn’t leave. She called the move “unreasonable and escalatory” and a violation of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations.
India reiterated Friday it wanted the two countries to have “parity” in diplomatic presence, and had been in talks with Canada over the past month over how to implement this. It said its actions were consistent with Article 11.1 of the Vienna convention, which states that a country can limit a foreign mission if there’s no specific agreement on its size.
“We reject any attempt to portray the implementation of parity as a violation of international norms,” the Ministry of External Affairs of India said in its statement.
Diplomatic ties between the two countries have deteriorated since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India’s government of helping to orchestrate the killing of a Sikh separatist activist on Canadian soil.
New Delhi called the allegation “absurd” and retaliated with several measures including a suspension of visas for Canadians. India also requested Ottawa reduce its diplomatic presence and make it equal to the number of Indians who have diplomatic immunity in Canada.
Canada said Thursday the cut to its diplomatic staff “will not distract” from the investigation into the murder of the Sikh activist.
Ottawa now has 21 diplomats in India, the same number as New Delhi has in Canada. Canada will halt consular services in Chandigarh, Mumbai and Bangalore, slowing down the processing of visas and immigration. Those who need consular assistance can still use the embassy in New Delhi.
Ottawa estimates a backlog of 17,500 visa and immigration application decisions through the end of December, a government official said in a background briefing.
“The state of our bilateral relations, the much higher number of Canadian diplomats in India, and their continued interference in our internal affairs warrant a parity in mutual diplomatic presence in New Delhi and Ottawa,” India’s foreign ministry said.
–With assistance from Eltaf Najafizada.
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