Canada has evacuated a majority of its diplomats working in India outside of New Delhi to either Kuala Lumpur or Singapore after it gave Ottawa an October 10 deadline to reduce its diplomatic staff to achieve parity in strength following a row over the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, according to a media report on Friday.
The report in CTV News, a privately owned Canadian television network, came after India earlier this week asked Canada to withdraw several dozen diplomats from its missions amid the escalating diplomatic row that erupted following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegation linking Indian agents to the killing of Khalistani separatist Nijjar in June.
India rejected the allegations as “absurd” and “motivated” and expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move to Ottawa’s expulsion of an Indian official over the case.
The Indian government has given Ottawa until October 10 to reduce Canadian diplomatic staff in that country to a level on par with the number of Indian diplomats in Canada, CTV News quoted sources as saying.
Earlier reports pegged the number of diplomats that would have to leave at 41, but the sources CTV News spoke with said the ask is specific to one of parity.
“A majority of the Canadian diplomats working in India outside of Delhi have been evacuated to either Kuala Lumpur or Singapore,” the report said.
“As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India,” the department said, just days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Indian government of being involved in the murder.
India on Thursday asserted that Canada must reduce its diplomatic presence in the country to achieve parity in strength and alleged that some of the Canadian diplomats are involved in interfering in New Delhi’s internal matters, signalling a continuing slide in the ties between the two nations over the killing of Nijjar.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in New Delhi discussions on the modalities to arrive at mutual diplomatic presence are going on and gave a clear indication that India will not review its position on the issue.
He said as Canadian diplomatic presence in India is much higher compared to India’s strength in Canada, it is assumed that there would be a reduction.
“Our focus is on ensuring parity in diplomatic strength,” he said.
The spokesperson, however, did not reply to questions on reports that October 10 is the deadline set by New Delhi for Ottawa to reduce the number of its diplomats in India.
“I would not like to get into the details of diplomatic conversation,” he said.
It is learnt that the number of Canadian diplomats in India is around 60 and New Delhi wants Ottawa to reduce the strength by at least three dozen.
Asked whether Canada has shared with India any information or evidence relating to Nijjar’s killing, Bagchi referred to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s recent remarks that if any specific or relevant information is shared with New Delhi, it is open to looking at it.
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