Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “many countries” are concerned about India forcing 41 Canadian diplomats to leave, adding the move will primarily punish the vast number of Indians and Canadians with ties between the two countries.
(Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “many countries” are concerned about India forcing 41 Canadian diplomats to leave, adding the move will primarily punish the vast number of Indians and Canadians with ties between the two countries.
“The Indian government is making it unbelievably difficult for life as usual to continue for millions of people in India and in Canada,” Trudeau told reporters Friday, giving examples of students, extended families and business relationships. “And they’re doing it by contravening a very basic principle of diplomacy.”
He said the move “has far-reaching consequences for the diplomatic world that I know many, many countries are very worried about.”
The diplomatic row is the latest escalation since Trudeau accused India’s government of helping to orchestrate the killing of a Sikh separatist activist on Canadian soil.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Thursday that her government relocated 41 staff from its embassy and consulates in India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government threatened to revoke their immunity. She called the action “unreasonable and escalatory” and a violation of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations.
The US said it is “concerned” by the departure of the Canadian diplomats, adding that it has “urged the Indian government not to insist upon a reduction in Canada’s diplomatic presence and to cooperate in the ongoing Canadian investigation,” according to a State Department statement.
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office also urged India to engage with Canada on its investigation into the death of the activist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar. “Resolving differences requires communication and diplomats in respective capitals. We do not agree with the decisions taken by the Indian government that have resulted in a number of Canadian diplomats departing India,” according to a statement.
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 about 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.
“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.”
New Delhi has denied the allegation it was behind the killing of the Sikh activist, and retaliated with several measures including a suspension of visas for Canadians.
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 in-person 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 or reach out by phone or email.
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.
–With assistance from Eltaf Najafizada and Laura Dhillon Kane.
(Adds US, UK reaction in 6th and 7th paragraphs)
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