India Reiterates Demand for Canada to Reduce Diplomatic Staff

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi’s remarks also came after media reports stated that India had given a deadline of October 10 for 41 Canadian diplomats to leave the country.

New Delhi: India on Thursday reiterated that Canada will have to reduce its diplomatic staff in New Delhi after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that it was important to have diplomats stationed on the ground to support Canadian nationals.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi’s remarks also came after media reports stated that India had given a deadline of October 10 for 41 Canadian diplomats to leave the country.

“Insofar as discussions on parity, as we have mentioned earlier, given the much higher diplomatic presence of Canadian diplomats or diplomatic presence here of Canada and their continuing interference in our internal affairs, we had and we have sought parity in our respective diplomatic presence,” Bagchi said on Thursday at the weekly media briefing.

After Trudeau had stood up in parliament and accused the Indian government of being behind the assassination of a Canadian national, India had angrily dismissed the allegations, expelled a Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat measure and asked for downsizing of the diplomatic strength.

India had charged Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was killed outside a Canadian Gurudwara in June, as a pro-Khalistani terrorist.

The Financial Times, followed by Associated Press, reported earlier this week that India had asked Canada to remove 41 diplomats from their Indian missions.

At Thursday’s briefing, Bagchi refused to mention the number of diplomats or the deadline for them to remain in India. “Look, I would not like to get into the details of diplomatic conversations. As we mentioned, I think last week, given that Canadian diplomatic presence is very much higher, we would assume that there would be a reduction. I think that broadly covers those issues”.

When pointed out that Canada had indicated that it will impact consular services, Bagchi said, “…it’s up to the Canadian side who they choose to staff their High Commission with”.

Indians have long been going to Canada for study and work. Around 40% of international students in Canada are from India. Further, Indian tourists are the largest spenders among any nationality as per a 2021 census.

In Canada, people of Indian origin account for about 3.7% of the population or 1.4 million. Besides, 770,000 people reported their religion as Sikhism, about 2% of Canada’s population.

Canada, along with its close allies including the United States, have repeatedly asked India to join the investigation. India has responded that it will be willing to look at any specific information when it is shared.

The role of the United States has become important, especially after the American ambassador to Canada David Cohen said that intelligence from the ‘Five eyes’ network had led to Trudeau going public with the allegations.

The New York Times had reported that while Canadian intelligence had found the “smoking gun”, the US had also provided inputs.

Besides, Politico reported on Wednesday that US ambassador to India Eric Garcetti had told his colleagues in the embassy that “relations between India and the U.S. could get worse for a time” due to the Indo-Canadian diplomatic spat.

He had also apparently stated that the US may need to reduce its contacts with Indian officials for an undefined period of time, as per the influential American news portal.

However, the spokesperson of the US embassy in New Delhi bluntly denied the report. “The U.S. Embassy dismisses these reports. Ambassador Garcetti is working hard every day to deepen the partnership between the people and governments of the United States and India. As his personal engagement and public schedule demonstrates, Ambassador Garcetti and the U.S. Mission to India are working every day to advance the important, strategic, and consequential partnership we have with India,” he said on Thursday.