Canadian Diplomats Depart India Amidst Controversy Over Sikh Leader's Murder


Canada - In a significant diplomatic development, forty-one Canadian diplomats have recently vacated their posts in India, following a dispute surrounding the murder of a Sikh separatist leader on Canadian soil.

The rift escalated when India, two weeks prior, formally requested Canada to withdraw a substantial portion of its diplomatic staff, warning of potential immunity revocation for non-compliance. Canadian authorities swiftly condemned this ultimatum, labeling it a "violation of international law".

Tensions between the two nations flared following Canada's accusation that India was involved in the June 18th assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. India vehemently denied the allegations, dismissing them as "absurd".

Canada's Foreign Minister, Melanie Joly, confirmed on Thursday that a substantial number of diplomats and their families have left India in response to India's ultimatum. She clarified that India has communicated its intent to unilaterally strip immunity from "all but 21 diplomats" by October 20.

As of now, the remaining 21 diplomats remain in India. However, this withdrawal will inevitably result in reduced services due to a shortage of staff, with in-person operations temporarily halted in Bangalore, Mumbai, and Chandigarh. No timeline has been provided for the resumption of these services.

Despite this downsizing, services will continue to be available at the High Commission of Canada in Delhi, and third-party-run application centers will remain operational. Nevertheless, officials anticipate a notable slowdown in processing times for immigration applications, particularly impacting Indian citizens, including prospective international students aiming to study in Canada.

In 2022, Indian nationals represented the largest group of applicants for both temporary and permanent residency in Canada. India contends that Canada maintained a larger diplomatic presence in Delhi than vice versa, demanding parity since the onset of the dispute. However, data from the Global Affairs website suggests otherwise, indicating similar numbers of Indian diplomats in Ottawa.

Regarding India's threat to revoke diplomatic immunity for Canadian envoys, Minister Joly emphasized during a press conference in Ottawa that this move constitutes a "violation of international law". She affirmed that Canada would not reciprocate, underscoring the critical importance of preserving diplomatic immunity globally.

Canadian officials reiterated their open invitation to Indian nationals desiring to visit or relocate to Canada.

Relations between Canada and India have reached an unprecedented nadir following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's declaration in September of credible evidence linking India to Nijjar's assassination. Trudeau based this assertion on Canadian intelligence, implicating "agents of the government of India" in the killing, an action Canada deems a breach of its sovereignty.

The investigation into Nijjar's targeted killing outside the Sikh temple he led in Surrey, British Columbia, remains ongoing. Nijjar was a vocal proponent of establishing Khalistan, a separate Sikh state in India, a movement staunchly opposed by India. In 2020, India officially designated him as a terrorist.

Despite the public accusation, Prime Minister Trudeau has consistently expressed a reluctance to escalate tensions with India, instead urging Indian authorities to cooperate fully with the investigation into Nijjar's tragic demise. Canadian law enforcement has classified the incident as a "targeted attack".