Canada-India relations appear to be on a downward trajectory, as India has instructed Canada to repatriate 41 of its diplomats by October 10, as per a report in the Financial Times. The escalating diplomatic fallout follows the recent assassination of Sikh independence activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, B.C., with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asserting that there were “credible allegations” pointing towards Indian involvement in the incident, a claim India has since labeled as “absurd.”
The Financial Times, citing individuals privy to the situation, stated that India has threatened to revoke the diplomatic immunity of any Canadian diplomats who fail to depart by the stated deadline. India has stressed that there should be “parity in strength and rank equivalence in our mutual diplomatic presence,” highlighting the disparity in the number of diplomats in each country.
Prime Minister Trudeau, addressing the situation on Tuesday, emphasized that his government is “not looking to escalate” tensions with New Delhi. “We’re going to be doing the work that matters in continuing to have constructive relations with India,” he remarked, noting that these are challenging times for Canada-India relations.
Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has expressed significant concern over the situation, ensuring that the Conservative party will “monitor the situation” to ensure the safety and protection of Canadians both domestically and overseas. The party’s foreign affairs critic, Michael Chong, deemed an “expert on this,” is expected to engage in discussions with Poilievre soon.
The ongoing tension has led to India suspending visa services in Canada, coupled with advisories for its citizens to be cautious when traveling to Canada due to concerns over “politically-condoned” hate crimes and violence. Concurrently, the High Commission of Canada has made adjustments in its staff presence in India, citing threats received by some diplomats on various social media platforms.
Canada, with a Sikh population of approximately 770,000, has been a long-standing point of contention for the Indian government due to some members’ outspoken support for Khalistan, an independent Sikh state. The current Canadian House of Commons boasts 15 Sikh members, signifying their strong representation in Canadian politics.
The ties between the two countries are being closely watched as they navigate this challenging period, with both nations having a rich history of diplomatic and trade relations. The respective foreign ministries have yet to issue official statements regarding the recent developments.