Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly announced on Thursday that Canada has taken the step of recalling 41 diplomats and their 42 family members from India due to the ongoing diplomatic dispute between the two countries.
Joly stated, "As of now, I can confirm that India has formally conveyed its plan to unethically remove diplomatic immunities for all but 21 Canadian diplomats and dependents in Delhi by tomorrow, October 20. This means 41 Canadian diplomats and their 42 dependents were in danger of having immunity stripped on an arbitrary date. And this would put their personal safety at risk.”
This move came in response to India's suspension of visa operations to Canada and its demand for a reduction in the number of Canadian diplomats stationed in India, with the aim of achieving "parity" in diplomatic representation, amid the ongoing diplomatic dispute.
Joly emphasized the importance of diplomatic immunity, stating, "...we have facilitated their safe departure from India. This means that our diplomats and their families have now left diplomatic immunities. Keep diplomats safe, no matter where they're from and where they're sent to. Immunities allow diplomats to do their work without fear of reprisal or arrests from the country they're in."
"They are a fundamental principle of diplomacy and this is a two-way street. They only work if every country abides by the rules. A unilateral revocation of diplomatic privilege and immunities is contrary to international law. It is a clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and threatening to do so is unreasonable and escalatory. If we allow the norm of diplomatic immunity to be broken no diplomats anywhere on the planet would be safe," she said, adding that Canada "will not reciprocate.”
During the announcement, Minister Marc Miller, responsible for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, discussed the impact of these developments on service delivery for Canadian citizens, noting the suspension of in-person services at Canadian consulates in Chandigarh, Mumbai, and Bangalore. He assured that Canadians in need of consular assistance could still visit the High Commission in Delhi or seek assistance by phone or email.
The decision to recall Canadian diplomats came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced questions regarding the Indian government's deadline for Canada to significantly reduce its diplomatic presence by October 10. Trudeau mentioned that more information on the matter would be provided by Joly at a later time and emphasized the seriousness with which Canada was addressing the situation.
India's focus on achieving diplomatic parity in terms of representation was underlined by the Ministry of External Affairs, which cited continued "interference" by Canadian diplomats in Indian domestic matters.
MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi explained that discussions were ongoing to determine the specifics of achieving this parity, given the higher presence of Canadian diplomats in India.
When asked about the potential impact on visa issuance by the Canadian High Commission in India due to the reduction in diplomats, Bagchi stated that it was the prerogative of the Canadian side to determine their staffing levels, while India's concern was primarily achieving diplomatic parity and creating a conducive working environment for Indian diplomats in Canada.
It's worth noting that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously alleged that the Indian government was involved in the fatal shooting of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar. However, India vehemently denied these claims, describing them as baseless and motivated, and Canada has yet to present public evidence supporting its allegations regarding Nijjar's killing. Nijjar, designated as a terrorist in India, was fatally shot outside a Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18.