Oct 06, 2023 04:40 PM IST
The reported move comes close on the heels of India signalling its determination to reduce the number of Canadian diplomats in the country
Canada has pulled out a majority of its diplomats posted outside New Delhi and moved them to Malaysia or Singapore amid tensions over Canadian allegations of an Indian link to the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, according to a media report on Friday.
The reported move comes close on the heels of India signalling its determination to reduce the number of Canadian diplomats in the country in order to achieve parity in diplomatic presence. The external affairs ministry said on Thursday parity was required in view of the “much higher diplomatic presence of Canadian diplomats …and their continuing interference in our internal matters”.
There was, however, no official word on the developments from Indian or Canadian officials. People familiar with the matter said back channel contacts are continuing between the two sides on a range of issues including Nijjar’s killing and Canada’s diplomatic presence.
A majority of Canadian diplomats “working in India outside of Delhi have been evacuated to either Kuala Lumpur or Singapore”, Canada’s CTV News reported citing sources. The Indian government has given Canada until October 10 to reduce Canadian diplomatic staff to a level at par with the number of Indian diplomats in Canada, the report said.
Besides the high commission in New Delhi, Canada has consulates in Bengaluru, Chandigarh and Mumbai and trade commissioner service offices in New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai.
Earlier media reports had said the Indian side has asked Canada to withdraw 41 of its 62 diplomats in India by October 10, failing which their diplomatic immunity will be withdrawn.
Asked about these reports on Thursday, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had only said that discussions were underway on modalities for achieving parity in diplomatic presence, and that there would be a reduction since Canada’s diplomatic presence in India is much higher.
Canada’s foreign ministry had also said last month that it was “assessing its staff complement in India” since some diplomats had received threats on social media platforms.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegation about the involvement of Indian government agents in Nijjar’s killing have taken bilateral ties to a fresh low. India has described the accusation as “absurd” and said it is willing to consider any information provided by Canada on the incident. Nijjar, designated a terrorist by India, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the parking lot of a gurdwara in the Canadian town of Surrey in June.
In a separate development, James P. Rubin, the US special envoy and coordinator of the Global Engagement Center under the state department, said the current diplomatic row between India and Canada is an area “ripe for information manipulation”. During an online media briefing, Rubin also called on India to help advance the investigation into Nijjar’s killing.
“This is a tricky subject. Let me just say that we support Canada’s investigation. We want everyone to help – including the Indian government – help advance the investigation into this terrible assassination, and we would urge everyone to cooperate and to take the investigation as far as it goes,” he said.
Responding to a question whether such disputes are fertile ground for disinformation campaigns, including by China, Rubin added: “This is obviously an area that is ripe for information manipulation.”
Rubin noted that manipulators will use any underlying discontent in a country and “they’re getting better and better at it”. He said, “I haven’t seen any specific evidence of the Canadian-Indian issue but I do know that China has made a big effort to interfere in the domestic affairs of Canada…”
- ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rezaul H Laskar is the Foreign Affairs Editor at Hindustan Times. His interests include movies and music.