India-Canada diplomatic spat escalates as Ottawa pulls out 41 diplomats

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Canada has pulled 41 diplomats and their families from India, after New Delhi threatened to have their diplomatic immunities revoked if Ottawa did not comply with demands for parity in diplomatic staffing.

“Canada confirms that India formally communicated its plan to remove immunities unilaterally for all but 21 Canadian diplomats and dependents in New Delhi by October 20, 2023,” the Canadian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The move effectively slashed Canada’s diplomatic numbers in India — its largest source of new migrants — by about two-thirds. As a result, Canada has to temporarily suspend in-person services at consulates in Bengaluru, Chandigarh and Mumbai, leaving its High Commission in New Delhi as the only place in India where it is able to offer services in a country that’s been its largest source of new migrants.

India’s Ministry for External Affairs did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment after office hours.

Tensions between the two countries escalated in September when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claimed there were “credible allegations” the Indian government orchestrated the extra-judicial slaying of a Sikh separatist in Canada. 

After reciprocal diplomatic expulsions last month, India issued a travel warning for its citizens, suspended visa applications in Canada, and demanded for parity in diplomatic staffing, which meant Ottawa had to cut staff numbers in India.

“A unilateral revocation of diplomatic privileges and immunities is contrary to international law, including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. This action taken by India is completely unreasonable and escalatory,” it added.

“Diplomatic immunities should be respected and cannot be unilaterally revoked by a host country. If we allow this norm to be broken, no diplomat anywhere would be safe,” Canada said.

“As such, the Government of Canada will continue to respect diplomatic norms and not reciprocate this action.”

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