Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on September 9 during the G-20 meeting in New Delhi.POOL (via REUTERS)
The Government of India has asked Canada to withdraw 41 of its 62 diplomats in the Asian country. The request, made public by the Financial Times newspaper, demands that Canadian staff leave their positions no later than October 10. Relations between New Delhi and Ottawa have deteriorated since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Indian intelligence services of being involved in the murder of a Sikh leader in Surrey, British Columbia. Narendra Modi’s Executive flatly denies these allegations and, according to the information, threatens to revoke the diplomatic immunity of these 41 people if they remain in the country after October 10.
New Delhi has 21 diplomats on Canadian soil, so it wants Ottawa to have an equivalent number. Last September, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs had already referred to matching these figures. Prime Minister Trudeau declined on Tuesday to confirm the information published by the British newspaper. He stated that his government “is not seeking an escalation,” but that the diplomatic crisis must be taken “with the utmost seriousness.” Trudeau did not say whether Canada would take a similar measure and reiterated the importance of maintaining diplomatic ties with India. Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly stressed that communications with New Delhi continue “in private.” “We believe diplomatic conversations are best when they remain private,” she said.
On September 18, the Canadian Prime Minister denounced during a parliamentary session the probable involvement of the Indian Government in the murder of a Sikh leader on Canadian soil, stressing that it could be an “unacceptable violation of the country’s sovereignty.” Trudeau indicated that Canadian security agencies have been studying the links between this crime and the work of New Delhi agents for several weeks.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead on June 18 outside a Sikh temple in the city of Surrey. Singh Nijjar, with a Canadian passport, was a well-known leader of his community and advocated for the independence of Punjab. Canada expelled an Indian diplomat following these allegations. The Narendra Modi government responded a day later, taking the same measure with a Canadian diplomat and issuing a warning to its citizens traveling to Canada, due to “the multiplication of anti-Indian activities and hate crimes and political connotations in various parts of Canada.” On September 21, New Delhi announced the suspension of processing visa applications submitted by Canadian citizens. Ottawa has pointed out that a good part of the accusations against India are based on information collected by intelligence services from other Western countries, for example from the so-called Five Eyes group, an alliance between Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, United States and Canada.
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