The diplomatic standoff between India and Canada has intensified as India issued an ultimatum, demanding the withdrawal of approximately 40 Canadian diplomats by October 10. This escalation comes in the wake of a growing dispute between the two nations concerning Ottawa's accusations of India's involvement in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil.
A source with direct knowledge of the matter disclosed to The Financial Times that India has explicitly warned it will revoke the diplomatic immunity of any Canadian diplomat who remains in the country after the specified deadline. Currently, Canada maintains 62 diplomats in India, while New Delhi has instructed them to reduce their presence to 41 at their high commission.
Peter Boehm, chair of the Canadian Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, expressed concerns about the deteriorating situation. "Declaring more Canadian diplomats persona non grata wouldn't help the situation and would make reducing the emotions associated with this disagreement more difficult," Boehm cautioned, as reported by The Financial Times.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has shown no sign of backing down in this diplomatic confrontation. Boehm emphasized that India perceives Canada as an "easy mark" and is aware of Ottawa's limited capacity to retaliate, given Canada's minority government. Trudeau shares power with Indian-origin and Canadian Sikh leader Jagmeet Singh, who heads the New Democratic Party (NDP).
"India knows our capacity to retaliate is limited, that we have a minority government and is aware of the consequent politics at play. And, of course, India has an election on the horizon," Boehm explained.
The dispute between the two nations centers on the number of diplomats stationed in each other's countries. India has previously insisted on an equal number of diplomats posted in both nations. Currently, Canada has a significantly larger diplomatic presence in Delhi compared to India's representation in Ottawa.
The diplomatic crisis first erupted after Prime Minister Trudeau stated on September 18 that Canadian security agencies were actively investigating "credible allegations of a potential link" between Indian government agents and the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. India had designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020. However, New Delhi vehemently denied Canada's allegations, labeling them "absurd" and "motivated."
In response, India expelled a Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move following Ottawa's expulsion of an Indian official. Furthermore, New Delhi suspended visa services for Canadian nationals.
Addressing the 78th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 26, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar indirectly criticized Canada, urging UN member states not to let "political convenience" dictate their responses to terrorism, extremism, and violence. As the diplomatic dispute continues to escalate, the international community watches closely for any potential resolution.
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