Canada recalls 41 of its diplomats from India amid escalating spat over Sikh slaying – CBS News

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Canada’s foreign minister said Thursday that the country has recalled 41 of its diplomats from India after the Indian government said it would revoke their diplomatic immunity, escalating a spat over the slaying of a Sikh separatist in Canada.
The moves come after Canada’s allegations that India may have been involved in the June killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar in suburban Vancouver. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that Indian officials could have had a role in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar igniting a diplomatic spat that’s lasted for months.  
Trudeau said Canadian security agencies were actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of Nijjar and that “India and the government of India need to take this matter with the utmost seriousness.”
India denied any involvement in the murder of a prominent Sikh leader in Canada and expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat response as tension between the two countries soars. 
Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said Thursday that 41 of Canada’s 62 diplomats in India have been removed, along with their dependents. Joly said exceptions have been made for 21 Canadian diplomats who will remain in India.
“Forty-one Canadian diplomats and their 42 dependents were in danger of having their immunity stripped on an arbitrary date and this would put their personal safety at risk,” Joly said. “Our diplomats and their families have now left.”
Joly said removing diplomatic immunity is contrary to international law, and said for that reason Canada wouldn’t threaten to do the same thing with Indian diplomats.
“A unilateral revocation of the diplomatic privilege and immunity is contrary to international law and a clear violation of Geneva Convention on diplomatic relations. Threatening to do so is unreasonable and escalatory,” Joly said.
Joly said India’s decision will impact the level of services to citizens of both countries. She said Canada is pausing in-person services in three major cities in India.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had previously called for a reduction in Canadian diplomats in India, saying they outnumbered India’s staffing in Canada.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the slaying of Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh leader who was killed by masked gunmen in June in Surrey, outside Vancouver. 
For years, India had said that Nijjar, a Canadian citizen born in India, had links to terrorism, an allegation Nijjar denied. Members of Canada’s Sikh community have been protesting for the Canadian government to investigate the killing. 
India also has canceled visas for Canadians, and Canada has not retaliated for that. India previously expelled a senior Canadian diplomat after Canada expelled a senior Indian diplomat.
Trudeau has previously appeared to try to calm the diplomatic clash, telling reporters that Canada is “not looking to provoke or escalate.”
The latest expulsions by India have escalated tensions between the countries. Trudeau had frosty encounters with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the recent Group of 20 meeting in New Delhi, and a few days later, Canada canceled a trade mission to India planned for the fall.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met with India’s foreign minister amid the simmering row. A U.S. official said the topic was raised. U.S. officials have acknowledged that the fallout from the allegations could have an impact on relations with India, but have been careful not to cast blame in the killing of Nijjar.
The U.S. has said they were “deeply concerned” about the allegations made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that India was involved in the murder. The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “It is critical that the Canadian investigation proceed, and it would be important that India work with the Canadians on this investigation.”
Blinken also said that the U.S. has “been engaged directly with the Indian government as well.” The U.S. and India signed a comprehensive global and strategic partnership agreement in June and released a statement saying the agreement “affirmed a vision of the United States and India as among the closest partners in the world.”
Nijjar, a plumber, was also a leader in what remains of a once-strong movement to create an independent Sikh homeland, known as Khalistan. A bloody decade-long Sikh insurgency shook north India in the 1970s and 1980s, until it was crushed in a government crackdown in which thousands of people were killed, including prominent Sikh leaders.
The Khalistan movement has lost much of its political power but still has supporters in the Indian state of Punjab, as well as in the sizable overseas Sikh diaspora. While the active insurgency ended years ago, the Indian government has warned repeatedly that Sikh separatists were trying to make a comeback.
Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller noted in 2022 that India was the top country for permanent residents, temporary foreign workers and international students in Canada. Miller said as a result of India’s decision to remove immunity Canada’s immigration department will be significantly reducing the number of Canadian employees in India.
First published on October 19, 2023 / 6:41 PM
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