Canada announced on October 19 that 41 of its diplomats have left India. This happened because India requested equal treatment in terms of diplomatic representation, as it was unhappy about Canada accusing Indian agents of being involved in the murder of a Canadian citizen. As a result, Canada will no longer offer visa services in person at its consulates in Mumbai, Chandigarh and Bengaluru, and this may cause longer visa processing time for Indians.
This move is significant because it’s one of the largest withdrawals of diplomats from a single country that Canada has ever made. Last month, Canada expelled an Indian diplomat, claiming that India might have been linked to the murder of a supporter of the Khalistan movement. In response, India expelled a Canadian diplomat, stopped visa services for Canadians, and asked Canada to reduce the number of its diplomats to match the number of Indian diplomats.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly also mentioned that India has formally informed Canada about its intention to remove diplomatic immunity from most of Canada’s diplomats by October 20.
Joly told reporters in Ottawa that, “This means that 41 Canadian diplomats and their 42 family members were at risk of losing their special diplomatic privileges in India. Because of the potential safety concerns for these Canadian diplomats and their families, Canada has helped them leave India safely”.
She also said that the team at the Canadian consulate in India has been significantly reduced. “5 IRCC staff will remain in India to take care of the necessary activities in the country. Other tasks and staff members will be assigned to different locations within our global processing network.”
Canadian news outlets previously stated that India had set a deadline of October 10 for reducing the size of Canadian embassies, but this deadline came and went without any action taken. In the meantime, India has made it clear that it aims to achieve diplomatic equality with Canada, mainly due to the larger number of Canadian diplomats and their involvement in India’s internal matters. However, India has not publicly specified a deadline for the return of Canadian diplomats.
During her announcement in Ottawa, Joly stated that India’s threat to unilaterally remove diplomatic immunity goes against international law, including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. She characterized India’s actions as unreasonable and escalating. Canada had originally accredited each of the Canadian diplomats who are now being expelled, and these diplomats were fulfilling their responsibilities in good faith, which benefited both countries. She emphasized that diplomatic immunities cannot be arbitrarily revoked by the host country. Breaking this norm would put diplomats worldwide at risk.
She also made it clear that Canada will not respond in kind to India’s actions. Canada will continue to uphold diplomatic norms and not engage in retaliatory measures. Canada remains committed to defending international law, which applies to all states equally, and is open to continued dialogue with India as they move forward.
India disagreed with what Joly said and stated that making diplomatic conditions equal between countries doesn’t break international rules. The Indian government’s message said they “reject any effort to say that making things equal breaks international norms.”
The Canadian foreign minister highlighted that India’s actions “will not divert their focus from the legitimate investigation into Mr. Nijjar’s death”. She said that Canada’s main concerns in this situation remain finding the truth, ensuring the safety of Canadians and protecting their own authority.