Canada has announced the withdrawal of 41 diplomats from India, marking the latest fallout in a heated dispute arising from the assassination of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil.
The diplomatic row has intensified, with New Delhi’s plan to revoke diplomatic immunity for all but 21 of Canada’s diplomats and their families by the end of the week.
This move compelled Ottawa to withdraw the remaining diplomats, as confirmed by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Melanie Joly.
Joly stated, “We have facilitated their safe departure from India. This means that our diplomats and their families have now left.”
The situation underscores the growing strain in relations between India and Canada, which began when Canada publicly linked Indian intelligence to the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar near Vancouver in June.
Notably, Nijjar was an advocate for a separate Sikh state that would be carved out of India, a stance that has long been a source of tension between Sikh separatists and the Indian government.
Canada has consistently called on India to cooperate in the investigation of Nijjar’s murder.
However, New Delhi has vehemently denied the allegations and taken retaliatory measures, including the suspension of visa services for Canadians. Ottawa also expelled an Indian diplomat in connection with the affair.
Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar indicated last month that India would be open to reviewing any evidence presented by Canada.
He added that India has provided substantial information to Canada regarding organized crime leadership operating from within Canada, often connected to Sikh separatists.
Jaishankar raised concerns about the security of Indian diplomats, mentioning threats and attacks on consulates, along with perceived interference in Indian politics. Canada, with its substantial Sikh population of around 770,000, has seen a vocal contingent advocating for the establishment of a separate Sikh state, known as Khalistan.
The Sikh separatist movement largely subsided within India following a crackdown by security forces during the 1980s. However, the issue remains a sensitive and complex matter, with implications for diplomatic relations between Canada and India.
In response to these developments, hundreds of Sikh protesters staged rallies outside Indian diplomatic missions in Canada last month, symbolically burning Indian flags and expressing their grievances against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.