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Sunday, July 21, 2024  
14 Muharram 1446  

Canada withdraws 41 diplomats from India as diplomatic spat escalated

"We have facilitated their safe departure from India," Joly added. "This means that our diplomats and their families have now left."

Canada said Thursday it had withdrawn 41 diplomats from India – fallout from a bitter row over the killing of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil.

New Delhi planned to revoke diplomatic immunity for all but 21 of Canada’s diplomats and their families by Friday, forcing Ottawa to pull out the others, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said.

“We have facilitated their safe departure from India,” Joly added. “This means that our diplomats and their families have now left.”

Relations between India and Canada have plunged since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month publicly linked Indian intelligence to the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, which New Delhi has denied.

Nijjar, who advocated for a separate Sikh state carved out of India, was wanted by Indian authorities for alleged terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder.

“Revoking the diplomatic immunity of 41 diplomats is not only unprecedented, but also contrary to international law,” Joly said Wednesday, but said Canada did not plan to retaliate in kind, so as to not “aggravate the situation.”

“Canada will continue to defend international law, which applies to all nations and will continue to engage with India,” she said.

“Now more than ever we need diplomats on the ground and we need to talk to one another,” Joly added.

Countermeasures

Canada has called for India to cooperate in the investigation but New Delhi has rejected the allegations and taken countermeasures, such as shutting down visa services for Canadians.

Ottawa also expelled an Indian diplomat over the affair.

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said last month in New York that his country would be willing to examine any evidence presented by Canada.

“We have actually been badgering the Canadians. We’ve given them loads of information about organized crime leadership which operates out of Canada,” Jaishankar said, referring to Sikh separatists.

“We have a situation where actually our diplomats are threatened, our consulates have been attacked and often comments are made (that are) interference in our politics,” he said.

The Indian government has called the Canadian accusations over the killing “absurd” and advised its nationals not to travel to certain Canadian regions “given the increase in anti-Indian activities.”

New Delhi also temporarily stopped processing visa applications in Canada.

Nijjar, who immigrated to Canada in 1997 and became a Canadian citizen in 2015, was shot dead by two masked assailants in the parking lot of a Sikh temple near Vancouver in June.

Canada is home to some 770,000 Sikhs, who make up about two percent of the country’s population, with a vocal group calling for creating a separate state of Khalistan.

The Sikh separatist movement is largely finished within India, where security forces used deadly force to put down an insurgency in the state of Punjab in the 1980s.

Hundreds of Sikh protesters rallied outside Indian diplomatic missions in Canada last month, burning flags and trampling on pictures of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The tensions between Ottawa and New Delhi have created a delicate situation for close Canadian ally Washington, which has in recent months taken steps to move closer to India as the United States seeks to limit Chinese influence in the region.

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Hardeep Singh Nijjar

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