Canada evacuates 41 diplomats, 42 accompanying dependents from India
Canada evacuated its 41 diplomats and 42 accompanying dependents from India after the Indian government threatened to strip them of their diplomatic immunity, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Thursday.
Addressing a press conference in Ottawa, the Canadian foreign minister said, "I can confirm that India has formally conveyed its plan to unilaterally remove diplomatic immunities for all but 21 Canadian diplomats and dependents in Delhi by tomorrow, October 20."
Responding to a media query on whether Canada will retaliate by requiring India to reduce its diplomatic head count in Canada, Joly said, "India's decision to declare persona non grata is unreasonable. But we will not retaliate."
Joly, who spoke alongside Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller, said that only 21 Canadian diplomats would be stationed in India now onwards.
"The safety of Canadians and of our diplomats is always my top concern. Given the implications of India's actions on the safety of our diplomats, we have facilitated their safe departure from India," Joly said. "This means that our diplomats and their families have now left."
She accused India of unilaterally revoking diplomatic privileges and immunities by going against the international law. "It is a clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," she said. "And threatening to do so is unreasonable and escalatory."
Joly also announced that India's move to declare persona non grata to 41 diplomats will impact the level of service delivery Canada will be able to provide in that country. "We are going to pause all in-person services at our consulates in Chandigarh, Mumbai and Bangalore," the Canadian foreign minister said.
India's External Affairs Ministry had given an ultimatum to Canada to reduce its diplomatic staffs by October 20. "We had no choice but to comply. The safety of Canadians, of our diplomats, is always my top concern," Joly said.
The fresh development came amid strained ties between Canada and India after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in mid-September accused Indian government agents of being behind the assassination of Sikh leader Nijjar on Canadian soil.
Trudeau, in his explosive statement in the House of Commons, said that his government was pursuing "credible allegations" from Canadian intelligence against New Delhi for playing a role in the assassination of Nijjar.
The Sikh Canadian leader had been a prominent advocate of the Khalistan movement, which seeks to establish a separate homeland for the Sikh community in India's northwestern Punjab region. Shortly after Trudeau's remarks, the Canadian government announced the dismissal of Pavan Kumar Rai, a senior Indian diplomat in Canada, for his alleged involvement in the killing of the Sikh leader in the Canadian Province of British Columbia in June this year.
In response, India's External Affairs Ministry flatly rejected the Canadian claims, expelling Olivier Sylvestere, a senior Canadian diplomat based in New Delhi.
Both countries subsequently issued travel adviseries urging their citizens to "exercise utmost caution" while traveling to some regions in the other country. Furthermore, India's visa processing center in Canada suspended services.