Canada has recalled 41 of its diplomats from India following the Indian government’s announcement that it would revoke their diplomatic immunity. This comes amid a dispute over the slaying of a Sikh separatist in Canada. Canada has accused India of harboring separatists and “terrorists” but has dismissed the accusation as “absurd.” Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly announced that 41 of Canada’s 62 diplomats in India have been removed, along with their dependents.
However, exceptions have been made for 21 Canadian diplomats who will remain in India. Joly argued that removing diplomatic immunity is unprecedented and contrary to international law, and that Canada would not threaten to do the same thing with Indian diplomats. She also noted that India’s decision will impact the level of services to citizens of both countries, and Canada is pausing in-person services in Chandigarh, Mumbai, and Bangalore.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs has called for a reduction in Canadian diplomats in India, claiming they outnumbered India’s staffing in Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accused India of involvement in the slaying of Sikh leader Nijjar, who was killed by masked gunmen in Surrey, outside Vancouver. India has accused Nijjar of links to terrorism, an allegation he denied.
Canada has not retaliated for canceling visas for Canadians, and India has expelled a senior Canadian diplomat after Canada expelled a senior Indian diplomat. India’s involvement in the killing is based on surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, including intelligence from a major ally. The communication involved Indian officials and diplomats in Canada, with some intelligence provided by a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance.
The recent expulsions by India have heightened tensions between Canada and India, with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau having frosty encounters with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a recent Group of 20 meeting in New Delhi. Canada canceled a planned trade mission to India, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with India’s foreign minister.
The fallout from the allegations could impact relations with India, but U.S. officials have been cautious not to blame the killing of Nijjar, a leader in the Khalistan movement. The movement, which has lost much of its political power, still has supporters in Punjab and the overseas Sikh diaspora. The Indian government has warned repeatedly that Sikh separatists are trying to make a comeback.
Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller has stated that India’s decision to remove diplomatic immunity will significantly reduce the number of Canadian employees in India, which will hamper visa and permit issuing. India has also indicated it will cancel permits allowing spouses to work in India and allowing the use of diplomatic plates on cars.
Senior Canadian officials have stated that India is firm on the number and rank of Canadian diplomats for whom it will lift diplomatic immunity. Political scientist Nelson Wiseman at the University of Toronto believes that Canada should not retaliate over India’s move, as it reveals the Indians’ complicity in the murder of a Canadian in Canada.