Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says every country in the world should be concerned about India’s threat to strip more than 40 Canadian diplomats of their diplomat immunity in the South Asian country.
Earlier this week, Canada withdrew 41 diplomats from India, significantly scaling back its mission in India after the threat from New Delhi. Only 21 remain.
The U.S. government on Friday publicly signalled its concern about India’s conduct.
The British government joined the Americans in criticizing India’s behaviour. ”We do not agree with the decisions taken by the Indian government that have resulted in a number of Canadian diplomats departing India,” Britain’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Friday that India has now acted on its threat to strip diplomatic status.
“I can confirm that the diplomatic status of the 41 Canadian diplomats who have left India has been revoked as of today, October 20, 2023,” Emily Williams, director of communications for Ms. Joly, said in a statement.
Mr. Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, was an outspoken advocate for the creation of an independent homeland for Sikhs in the Indian state of Punjab. India had designated him a terrorist.
After Mr. Trudeau’s accusation, New Delhi gave Canada an ultimatum: Withdraw 41 diplomats or it would revoke their diplomatic immunity.
The Prime Minister, speaking to journalists in Brampton, Ont., Friday, accused India of violating a bedrock rule of international law and diplomacy as outlined in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
“This is them choosing to contravene a very fundamental principle of international law and diplomacy. It is something that all countries in the world should be very worried about,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Canada announced it would temporarily suspend in-person operations at consulates in several Indian cities and warned of visa processing delays.
Mr. Trudeau said India’s conduct will hurt Indo-Canadians and Indians wanting to study or work in Canada.
“The Indian government is making it unbelievably difficult for life as usual to continue for millions of people in India and in Canada,” he said. He said what New Delhi has done “has me very concerned for the well-being and happiness of millions of Canadians who trace their origins to the Indian subcontinent.”
Canada, however, has said it will not retaliate by requiring India to reduce its own diplomatic head count in Canada.
The U.S. Department of State on Friday said it had asked India not to order the withdrawal of Canadian diplomats and to work with Canada’s investigation into the slaying of Mr. Nijjar.
“We are concerned by the departure of Canadian diplomats from India, in response to the Indian government’s demand of Canada to significantly reduce its diplomatic presence in India,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.
“Resolving differences requires diplomats on the ground. We have urged the Indian government not to insist upon a reduction in Canada’s diplomatic presence and to co-operate in the ongoing Canadian investigation. We expect India to uphold its obligations under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, including with respect to privileges and immunities enjoyed by accredited members of Canada’s diplomatic mission.”
The Indian government defended its behaviour in a news release Friday.
It continued to insist that it was merely asking Canada to reduce its diplomatic presence to the same size that India has in Canada, a request for parity that it argued was in line with the Vienna Convention.
The rationale is confusing, because Ottawa’s count of India’s diplomatic presence in Canada shows it has more than 60 people accredited to represent New Delhi in this country.
“The state of our bilateral relations, the much higher number of Canadian diplomats in India, and their continued interference in our internal affairs warrant a parity in mutual diplomatic presence in New Delhi and Ottawa,” the Indian government said in a statement.
“We reject any attempt to portray the implementation of parity as a violation of international norms.”
Canadian government officials said in a background briefing this week that the withdrawn diplomats include 27 Immigration Department staff members. Officials estimated that the loss of staff will lead to a backlog of 17,500 decisions on applications from India.
Ms. Joly told reporters this week that Canada had no choice but to comply with the demand for withdrawals.