India has issued a stern demand for Canada to withdraw dozens of its diplomats in an escalation of a diplomatic crisis that was triggered when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested a potential link between India and the murder of a Canadian Sikh.
The situation has cast a shadow over international relations and poses significant challenges for Trudeau, who is dealing with both domestic political pressures and the need to maintain crucial alliances with Western partners.
According to Indian media reports, sources familiar with the situation claim New Delhi has conveyed to Ottawa that it must repatriate approximately 40 diplomats by October 10. It has been suggested that India has even threatened to revoke the diplomatic immunity of any diplomats who remain in the country beyond that date. Both the Canadian foreign ministry and the Indian government have refrained from providing any official comments on the matter.
Financial Times quoted a source saying Canada has 62 diplomats in India and that New Delhi has told them to reduce that by 41 people.
The diplomatic tension stems from Trudeau’s explosive claim on September 18, in which he asserted that Canada was investigating “credible allegations” that Indian agents may have played a role in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist and Canadian citizen, killed in a Vancouver suburb in June.
The situation has further complicated relations between the two nations, with India having already announced a visa ban for Canadians shortly after Trudeau’s accusations were made public. India, however, has not admitted involvement in the murder but did not explicitly deny the claims made by Canada.
Canada currently maintains a significantly larger diplomatic presence in India compared to India’s presence in Canada. Reports suggest that Canada has 62 diplomats in India, and New Delhi has requested a reduction of 41 diplomats.
Canada’s efforts to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels, including secret discussions between Canadian national security adviser Jody Thomas and Indian officials, have failed to yield cooperation from India. India has rejected the allegations while urging Canada to halt the inquiry into Nijjar’s murder.
Canadian media outlets have reported intercepts of conversations involving Indian diplomats that appear to point to official involvement in Nijjar’s killing. However, due to intelligence sources and the ongoing murder investigation, Canada has been limited in what it can share with the Indian government.
Despite initially facing criticism and skepticism, Trudeau’s stance has garnered support from international allies. President Joe Biden reportedly raised the issue during the G20 summit, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged India to cooperate with the Canadian police investigation.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said, “We remain in close coordination with our Canadian colleagues…we have engaged with our Indian Government on a number of occasions to urge them to cooperate with Canada’s investigation and the Secretary (Antony Blinken) had an opportunity to do that in his meeting with Foreign Minister (Dr S Jaishankar) on Friday.”
#WATCH | On India-Canada row, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller says, “…We remain in close coordination with our Canadian colleagues…we have engaged with our Indian Government on a number of occasions to urge them to cooperate with Canada’s investigation and the… pic.twitter.com/TJuodImNok
— ANI (@ANI) October 2, 2023
David Cohen, the US ambassador to Ottawa, stated that Canada received intelligence on the murder from the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network, strengthening Trudeau’s position.
Analysts believe the ongoing dispute could continue for some time as leadership in both countries remains unchanged.
The diplomatic standoff has not only raised concerns about bilateral relations but also placed Trudeau in a challenging position as he navigates domestic politics and international diplomacy amid an impending election on the horizon. The situation remains fluid, with the world watching closely to see how the two nations will proceed in the coming weeks and months.
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