Canada Evacuates Diplomats From India Amid Diplomatic Tensions

Canada Evacuates Diplomats From India Amid Diplomatic Tensions
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks past India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, as they take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Raj Ghat (Mahatma Gandhi's cremation site) during the G20 Summit in New Delhi, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP) (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canada has evacuated a majority of its diplomats from India following a demand from New Delhi that Ottawa reduce its diplomatic staff in the country, according to multiple sources.

The demand from India came in the midst of a diplomatic dispute ignited by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegation that the Indian government may have had a hand in the murder of a Sikh separatist leader in Vancouver. India has vehemently denied these allegations, terming them as “absurd” and “politically driven”.

Canada had 62 diplomats stationed at its High Commission in India. Recent reports from CTV News suggest that the majority of these diplomats, especially those outside of Delhi, have been relocated to Southeast Asian cities like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. No official confirmation from New Delhi regarding the evacuation has been reported yet.

This escalation comes in the backdrop of India seeking to achieve “parity” in the number of diplomats stationed in each country. Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, was quoted saying, “On discussions on parity, given the much higher presence of diplomats or diplomatic presence here and their interference in our internal matters, we have sought parity in our respective diplomatic presence.” He emphasized ongoing discussions to achieve this parity and hinted at a probable reduction given Canada’s higher diplomatic presence.

Canada Evacuates Diplomats From India Amid Diplomatic Tensions
Members of Sikh community protest outside India’s consulate in Vancouver [File: Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters]
India has not only demanded a reduction of Canadian diplomats but also cancelled visas for Canadians, a move to which Canada has not yet retaliated. It’s noteworthy that both countries previously expelled each other’s senior diplomats in the wake of this rising tension.

In response to India’s demand for the reduction of diplomatic staff, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly was quoted stating, “We are in contact with the government of India. We take Canadian diplomats’ safety very seriously, and we will continue to engage privately because we think that diplomatic conversations are best when they remain private.” Joly’s remarks align with Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent comments emphasizing Canada’s intent not to provoke or escalate the situation.

The prime minister himself, while addressing reporters on Tuesday, emphasized the importance of having Canadian diplomats in India. “They are to support Canadians and Canadian families. We’re taking this extremely seriously, but we’re going to continue to engage responsibly and constructively with the government of India,” Trudeau remarked.

As both countries navigate this precarious diplomatic scenario, the international community will be closely watching the developments to gauge the future trajectory of Indo-Canadian relations.