India asks Canada to withdraw dozens of its diplomatic staff

India has asked Canada to withdraw dozens of diplomats from the country, escalating the crisis that erupted when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said New Delhi may be linked to the killing of a Sikh Canadian.

New Delhi has told Ottawa it must repatriate nearly 40 diplomats by Oct. 10, according to people familiar with the request. India threatened to revoke diplomatic immunity for diplomats who remained after that date, one of the people said.

The Canadian Foreign Ministry and the Indian government declined to comment. New Delhi has previously said it wants “parity” in the number and grade of diplomats each country deploys to the other.

Canada has dozens more diplomats at the High Commission in New Delhi than India does in Ottawa, because of the large consular section needed for relatives of the nearly 1.3 million Canadians who claim Indian ancestry.

Canada has 62 diplomats in India and New Delhi has asked them to reduce that number by 41 people, one of the people said.

New Delhi already announced a visa ban for Canadians the day after Trudeau’s surprise announcement on September 18.

The latest move threatens to dramatically worsen the crisis that erupted when Trudeau said Ottawa was investigating “credible allegations” that Indian agents may have been behind the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nigar, a separatist Sikh Canadian national, who was killed in a Vancouver suburb in June. .

It will also complicate matters for Trudeau, who faces pressure at home to act while also trying to garner support from Western allies eager to strengthen ties with New Delhi to serve as a bulwark for China.

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“Announcing more Canadian diplomats Undesirable people “It will not help the situation and will make it more difficult to ease the sentiment associated with this dispute,” said Peter Boom, chair of the Canadian Senate Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee.

Trudeau’s claim followed frustration in Ottawa over the failure of weeks of secret diplomacy with India to secure its cooperation with the police investigation into Carpenter’s killing.

Diplomatic efforts included two trips by Canadian National Security Advisor Jody Thomas to India to discuss the issue ahead of the G20 summit in New Delhi in September. India has not admitted involvement in the murder, but has not denied the allegation, according to people familiar with the meetings. The Indian government said it rejected these accusations.

The murder was also the focus of Trudeau’s meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit, when the Indian side flatly rejected the request for cooperation. In previous meetings, India urged Canada to halt the investigation, according to people familiar with the case.

Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said in Washington last week that the alleged assassination was “not consistent with our policy” and accused Canada of being lenient to Sikh separatists demanding an independent state in India.

Canadian media reported that Ottawa had eavesdropped on conversations involving Indian diplomats indicating official involvement in the shooting of Najjar last June. India denied seeing any such evidence.

Ottawa is limited in what it can share with the Indian government, partly to protect the sources and methods used to gather intelligence, but also to avoid compromising the murder investigation, according to people familiar with the matter.

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The restrictions meant that Thomas and other officials who visited India, including Canadian Security Intelligence Service chief David Vigneault, were only able to give evidence orally to their Indian counterparts.

The standoff with India poses a problem for Trudeau, whose popularity is waning during the cost of living crisis as his Liberal Party prepares for elections scheduled before October 2025. Critics have accused Trudeau of appeasing Canada’s large Sikh population and acting recklessly.

“This was not a good time” for the crisis, said one person familiar with his thinking. But Trudeau felt compelled to make a statement in Parliament ahead of a planned article in The Globe and Mail and because of the seriousness of the allegations, people familiar with the matter said.

“A Canadian was killed on Canadian soil. It’s about sovereignty, so it had to be the prime minister.” [making the statement]“One person said.

Roland Paris, a foreign policy expert at the University of Ottawa, said the nature of the allegations left Trudeau with little choice.

“There’s a feeling in Canada that bad things happen in other places, but this murder really affected the public consciousness,” Paris said. “It’s not something that Canada or Canadians are going to ignore or forget.”

Richard Fadden, the former head of CSIS who served as Trudeau’s national security adviser, said he was surprised by the prime minister’s move. “I thought he must be absolutely sure of the evidence.”

While some Canadian critics were initially disappointed by the reaction of their international allies to its “credible allegations” against India, the tone has changed.

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The Financial Times recently reported that President Joe Biden raised the issue of Najjar’s killing with Modi at the G20 summit. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week urged India to cooperate with the Canadian police investigation.

David Cohen, the US ambassador to Ottawa, said Canada received intelligence about the murder from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, which also includes the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand — a statement that would strengthen Trudeau’s case.

“I don’t expect the prime minister to back down,” Boom said, also warning that India sees Canada as an “easy mark.”

“India knows that our ability to respond is limited, and that we have a minority government, and it understands the politics of that,” Boom said. “And of course, India has elections on the horizon.”

Veena Nadjibula, a professor at the University of British Columbia, said the dispute has put Canada and its allies in a “difficult position” and that it is difficult to see how Ottawa and New Delhi can calm relations for some time.

“It is difficult to see anything changing while the leadership in both countries remains the same,” she said.

Additional reporting by John Reid in New Delhi

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