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Canada has withdrawn dozens of diplomats from India after the countries failed to resolve a dispute related to Ottawa’s allegations that New Delhi may be involved in the killing of a Canadian citizen.
Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Jolie said Thursday that Ottawa has withdrawn 41 of its 62 diplomats in the country. Canada and India have been negotiating the fate of the diplomats for weeks after India set a deadline for their withdrawal of October 10.
The Financial Times previously reported that Jolie held a secret meeting with Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar in Washington last month, but the two sides failed to reach an agreement to allow Canadian diplomats to remain in India.
Jolie confirmed in a press conference on Thursday afternoon that the diplomats had left India. She said Ottawa withdrew them after New Delhi said they would lose diplomatic immunity effective October 20.
“Unilaterally revoking diplomatic privileges 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 constitutes an escalation,” Jolie said.
Jolie declined to say whether the fact that India extended the original October 10 deadline meant the two sides had made some progress in the talks at some point, including her meeting with Jaishankar.
“I think diplomacy is always better when it remains private,” she said.
Jolie said Canada has suspended operations at its three consulates in India – Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chandigarh – due to the withdrawal. The 41 diplomats who left were accompanied by 42 dependents.
New Delhi cited the Vienna Convention, which provides a framework for diplomatic relations, when it told Ottawa it wanted “parity” in the number and ranks of diplomats each country has in the other.
Ottawa has more diplomats in India than New Delhi in Canada due to the presence of a large consular section that processes visas for the families of approximately 1.3 million Canadians who claim Indian heritage.
“If we allow the rule of diplomatic immunity to be broken, no diplomat anywhere on the planet will be safe. For this reason, we will not retaliate in kind,” Jolie said on Thursday.
The row erupted last month after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there were “credible allegations” that India may have been involved in the killing in Vancouver of Hardeep Singh Nigar, a Sikh leader who was part of a movement demanding an independent Sikh state in Vancouver. India.
India described the Canadian allegation, which Trudeau raised with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit in New Delhi in August, as “ridiculous.” US President Joe Biden also raised the issue with the Indian leader.
India has repeatedly said that Canada has not shown them any evidence. The Financial Times previously reported that Canadian officials who traveled to India to discuss the case only provided evidence orally due to concerns about revealing information about intelligence gathering.
On Thursday, Jolie declined to say whether Canada had provided evidence to India, saying only that “information had been exchanged.”
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are continuing their investigation into Al-Najjar’s killing.
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