In the latest salvo in the ongoing diplomatic standoff between India and Canada, New Delhi has told Ottawa to withdraw 41 Canadian diplomats posted in its missions in India, according to a report.
The report comes amid a diplomatic row between India and Canada created by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He plunged the bilateral relations to a new low by claiming last month that there were "credible allegations of a potential link" between the Indian government and the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was killed in June in Canada's British Columbia province. India has forcefully rejected Trudeau's allegation.
Following the claim that Trudeau made in the Canadian Parliament, his government expelled a senior Indian government posted in Canada and outed him publicly as being the station chief of the Indian external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in Canada. In a tit-for-tat reaction, India also expelled a Canadian diplomat posted in India, who has since been identified as Olivier Sylvester, the station chief of Canadian intelligence in India. Moreover India has also suspended visa services for Canadian nationals.
Nijjar, whose death Trudeau has linked to the Indian government, was a designated terrorist. He was the chief of the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), which is also a designated terrorist organisation.
While it had been reported earlier that India had ordered the downsizing of the Canadian missions, it is for the first time that specific numbers have been reported.
What does the report say?
India has told Canada to withdraw 41 diplomats from India and has set October 10 as the deadline for the withdrawal, according to Financial Times (FT).
The FT has reported that India has conveyed to Canada that the diplomatic immunity of these diplomats would be revoked if they remain in India after the deadline.
Ambassadors and diplomats of a country and representatives of international organisations have immunity from criminal prosecution during the course of their posting in the host country, according to international agreements and conventions in place. In view of such immunity, diplomats believed to be part of activities adversarial to the host country are often expelled as they cannot be prosecuted.
Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961), privileges of immunity are granted to diplomats, their families, and staff from criminal prosecution and some civil jurisdiction, notes The Britannica Encyclopaedia, adding that lesser levels of protection is extended to a mission's staff, which generally includes "immunity only for acts committed in the course of their official duties".
The Britannica further notes, "Since the 19th century, diplomatic privileges and immunities have gradually been extended to the representatives and personnel of international organisations."
The FT has quoted a source as saying that Canada currently has 62 diplomats in India and New Delhi has asked to reduce the number by 41.
Earlier, New Delhi had said that there needs to be "parity" between the size of missions the two countries have. It is known that Canada has a much bigger diplomatic presence in India than India has in Canada.
Years of India-Canada tensions come to a boil
While Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has now plunged the India-Canada relations to a new low, the relationship had been strained for a long time over the safe haven that terrorists and organised crime syndicates associated with the Khalistan movement and engaged in anti-India activities have found in Canada.
The Khalistan movement seeks to carve out a separate Sikh nation out of India. For decades, they waged a violent insurgency in India that finally ebbed in the 1990s. While the insurgency ebbed in the 1990s, the movement found a safe haven in Canada. Over the decades, Canada has emerged as a safe haven for the Khalistan movement, where a number of Khalistan terrorist leaders and terrorist organisations are based along with gangsters and smugglers who are engaged in plotting and executing acts of terror and crimes on Indian soil. This has consistently strained India-Canada relations.
The long-running tensions have only increased since Trudeau became the Prime Minister of Canada as the Khalistan movement found newfound tolerance and patronage under him as he, his allies, his ministers, and his government has consistently pandered to the Khalistani elements over the years. Trudea and his ministers and allies have attended Khalistani events and a Khalistani convicted for an attempted murder of an Indian minister was even invited to an event hosted by Trudeau in India during his disastrous visit in 2018.
The India-Canada tensions were also visible during the G20 Summit last month when Trudeau was largely snubbed by India. He had a tense meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a particularly harsh readout, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said that Modi "conveyed our strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada".
"They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship. The nexus of such forces with organized crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking should be a concern for Canada as well. It is essential for the two countries to cooperate in dealing with such threats," said the readout further.
On his part, Trudeau said he raised the issue of purported Indian interference in Canadian affairs. Independent observers have pointed that the Pakistani military-intelligence apparatus and the Chinese regime have also been linked to killings to critics of their regimes in Canada, but neither Trudeau nor his government have raised their cases in a sign of clear hypocrisy and tolerance of these regimes.
Following Trudeau's claim of Indian involvement in Khalistani terrorist Nijjar's killing, India issued an advisory warning of "politically-condoned" anti-India activities in Canada. The phrase "politically-condoned" reflects the support that the Khalistan movement and anti-India elements in Canada receive from Trudeau, his party and allies, and his government.
Following Trudeau's allegation against India, Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun issued a public threat against the Hindus in Canada, warning them to leave the country. The threat was part of the long-runnung Khalistani campaign in Canada, which has gone without any discernible action on part of the Trudea regime, in which the Khalistanis have vandalised Hindu temples, attacked Indian missions, and issued threats against Indian diplomats stationed in the country.
During his recent visit to the United States, Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar has raised the issue of Canadian inaction in cases of violence against Indian diplomats and failure of Trudeau government to fulfil its basic duties to provide security to foreign missions and diplomats.