An individual familiar with the situation said Tuesday that India has instructed Canada to withdraw 41 of its 62 diplomats from the country, escalating a dispute between the two nations over Canadian allegations that India may have been responsible for the murder of a Sikh separatist leader in a suburban Vancouver neighbourhood.
Because they were not permitted to comment publicly before the Canadian government responded publicly later on Tuesday, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity. An earlier Financial Times report was corroborated by the official.
In a statement made late last month, Arindam Bagchi, a representative for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said that New Delhi had “informed the Canadian government that there should be parity in strength and rank equivalence in our mutual diplomatic presence.”
“Their numbers here are very much higher than ours in Canada,” said Bagchi.
The presence of Sikh separatist organizations in Canada has irked New Delhi, and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar had claimed that there was a “climate of violence” and a “atmosphere of intimidation” against Indian officials there.
Separatism or Political Opponents
Tens of thousands people were killed during a rebellion in the 1980s and 1990s that sought to establish Khalistan as a “Sikh homeland” but was put down by India. Today, Punjab has almost little support for it.
India designated Nijjar as “involved in terrorism” in 2020 after accusing him of uttering “hateful speeches” and “seditionary and insurrectionary imputations.”
In Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was murdered by gunfire outside a Sikh temple.
An already tense bilateral relationship between Canada and India will be further strained by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s accusation that the Indian government was complicit in the shooting death of a Sikh leader.
On September 19, India called Trudeau’s claim “absurd” and rejected it. In a match of wits, both nations removed a diplomat: Canada expelled India’s top intelligence official, and India expelled his Canadian counterpart.
On September 20, India issued a statement urging its people in Canada to use cautious as the United States, Australia, and Britain expressed alarm over the situation.
According to industry insiders in both countries, Canadian lentil exports to India have decreased as a result of the escalating tensions between the two countries. Lentils, a staple food high in protein, are primarily imported from Canada into India. Reporters were informed by India’s steel secretary on September 28 that India’s shipments to Canada were insignificant and were unaffected by the diplomatic dispute.
Now, New Delhi wants 41 of Canadian diplomats to leave by October 10. The Indian government has additionally threatened to strip diplomatic immunity for anyone still present in India after the deadline.
Ottawa has not replied yet to these new diplomatic deteriorations.