Canada to ‘adjust’ number of diplomats in India as row escalates

Friday, Sep 22, 2023

NEW DELHI: Canada’s High Commission said it would “adjust” diplomat numbers in India and the South Asian nation suspended visa processing in Canada on Thursday as a row between Ottawa and New Delhi deepens.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has demanded India treat with “utmost seriousness” allegations that Indian agents played a role in the June murder of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar near Vancouver.

The fallout prompted tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and a forceful denial from India, which said any suggestion it played a role in Nijjar’s killing was “absurd”, sending strained relations between the world’s most populous country and G7 member Canada to a new low.

“In light of the current environment where tensions have heightened, we are taking action to ensure the safety of our diplomats,” Canada’s mission said in a statement.

“With some diplomats having received threats on various social media platforms, Global Affairs Canada is assessing its staff complement in India,” it added. “As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India.”

The mission did not give further details of the number of people leaving but said its offices were “open and operational”, while calling for the safety of its staff to be ensured. “We expect India to provide for the security of our accredited diplomats and consular officers in India, just as we are for theirs,” it said.

Earlier on Thursday, India’s official visa processor in Canada said it had been told to stop handling applications.

“Important notice from Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” BLS International posted on their website.

There was no immediate comment from India’s foreign ministry.On Monday, Ottawa expelled a diplomat it described as the head of India’s foreign intelligence service in Canada, prompting New Delhi to order a Canadian diplomat to leave.

The suspension of visas comes a day after India’s foreign ministry said it was concerned for the safety of its citizens in Canada because of “politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence”.

“Threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda,” a ministry statement said Wednesday.