Canada has pulled 41 diplomats and their families from India, after New Delhi threatened to have their diplomatic immunities revoked if Ottawa did not comply with demands for parity in diplomatic staffing.
“Canada confirms that India formally communicated its plan to remove immunities unilaterally for all but 21 Canadian diplomats and dependents in New Delhi by October 20, 2023,” the Canadian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
Canada’s compliance effectively slashed its diplomatic numbers in India — its largest source of new migrants — by about two-thirds. As a result, Canada has to temporarily suspend in-person services at consulates in Bengaluru, Chandigarh and Mumbai, leaving its High Commission in New Delhi as the only place in India where it is able to offer services in a country that’s been its largest source of new migrants.
Tensions between the two countries escalated in September when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claimed there were “credible allegations” the Indian government orchestrated the extra-judicial slaying of a Sikh separatist in Canada.
The Indian government on Friday rejected any notion that it had violated international law in asking Canada to recall diplomats so that both governments have roughly the same number stationed in each country.
Canada said Thursday it was recalling 41 of its 62 diplomats in India after what it said was New Delhi’s warning that it would strip their diplomatic immunity — something Canadian officials characterized as a violation of the Geneva Convention.
India had not publicly stated it would withdraw diplomatic immunity from the Canadian diplomats, nor did it give a deadline for their departure. But it said it wanted Canada to reduce its number of diplomats in India to match the amount that India has in Canada.
“We reject any attempt to portray the implementation of parity as a violation of international norms,” India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Friday.
India’s actions are “fully consistent” with Article 11.1 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which stipulates the receiving state may require the size of a mission be kept within limits considered to be “reasonable” in the absence of a specific agreement on the size of the mission, it said.
“We reject any attempt to portray the implementation of parity as a violation of international norms,” the Indian government added.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated Canada’s concerns on Friday that India was contravening “a fundamental principle of international law and diplomacy,” adding that “it is something that all countries in the world should be very worried about.”
India said there was a high number of Canadian diplomats in the country. “Their continued interference in our internal affairs warrant a parity in mutual diplomatic presence in New Delhi and Ottawa,” the statement said.
US and UK back Canada
The United States and United Kingdom Friday expressed concern over 41 Canadian diplomats being pulled out of India. While the US stated it has urged New Delhi not to insist a reduction in diplomatic presence over a dispute on the killing of a pro-Khalistan leader, the UK said it did not agree with the decisions taken by the Indian government.
Washington said it took Canada’s allegations seriously and urged India to cooperate with Canada in the probe into Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing, according to news agency Reuters.
“We are concerned by the departure of Canadian diplomats from India, in response to the Indian government’s demand of Canada to significantly reduce its diplomatic presence in India,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
Meanwhile, a Britain Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We do not agree with the decisions taken by the Indian government that have resulted in a number of Canadian diplomats departing India.”
Both UK and the US cited the Vienna Convention. “We expect India to uphold its obligations under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” the US State Department said, adding that it has urged the Indian government to cooperate in the ongoing Canadian investigation over the killing of Nijjar last month. “The unilateral removal of the privileges and immunities that provide for the safety and security of diplomats is not consistent with the principles or the effective functioning of the Vienna Convention,” the Britain’s Foreign Office’s statement read.