Canada to ‘adjust’ number of diplomats in India as row escalates

Canada says it is assessing its diplomatic staff complement in India as a dispute between both nations escalates. – Facebook pic, September 21, 2023.

CANADA’s High Commission said it would “adjust” diplomat numbers in India as a row between Ottawa and New Delhi deepened.

Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanded India treat with “utmost seriousness” allegations Indian agents played a role in the June murder of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar near Vancouver.

The fallout prompted tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and a forceful denial from India, which said any suggestion it played a role in Nijjar’s killing was “absurd”, sending strained relations between the world’s most populous country and G7 member Canada to a new low.

“In light of the current environment where tensions have heightened, we are taking action to ensure the safety of our diplomats,” said Canada’s mission in a statement.

“With some diplomats having received threats on various social media platforms, Global Affairs Canada is assessing its staff complement in India,” it said.

“As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India.”

The mission did not give details of the number of people leaving but said its offices were “open and operational”, while calling for the safety of its staff to be ensured.

“We expect India to provide for the security of our accredited diplomats and consular officers in India, just as we are for theirs,” it said.

Earlier today, India’s official visa processor in Canada said it was told to stop handling applications.

“Important notice from Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” BLS International posted on its website.

There was no immediate comment from India’s Foreign Ministry.

On Monday, Ottawa expelled a diplomat it called the head of India’s intelligence service in Canada, prompting New Delhi to order a Canadian diplomat to leave.


The suspension of visas came a day after India’s Foreign Ministry said it was concerned for the safety of its citizens in Canada because of “politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence”.

“Threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda,” said a ministry statement yesterday.

Nijjar was shot dead by two masked assailants outside the Sikh temple he presided over in Surrey, an outer suburb of Vancouver.

An activist championing the creation of a Sikh state known as Khalistan, Nijjar was wanted by Indian authorities for alleged terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder.

He had denied those charges, said the World Sikh Organization of Canada, a civil society group that said it defends the interests of Canadian Sikhs.

The Indian government accused Ottawa of turning a blind eye to the activities of radical Sikh nationalists who advocate the creation of an independent state in northern India.

There were signs of a brewing crisis before Trudeau revealed the probe into Nijjar’s death on Monday.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed “strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada” in his meeting with Trudeau at the G20 earlier this month.

Canada had suspended negotiations for a free-trade agreement with India, and last week its trade minister cancelled a trip to the country planned for October.

The affair could complicate the United States’ overtures to India, which have seen both countries steadily upgrade their relations over recent years.

Washington viewed New Delhi as a key ally in countering Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific region. – AFP, September 21, 2023.

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