The Indian government has strongly refuted Canadian claims that the withdrawal of 41 Canadian diplomats was a “violation of the Vienna Convention governing diplomacy”, amid an ongoing diplomatic row related to pro-Khalistan extremism.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) clarified that the decision was within the framework of the Convention to achieve parity in diplomatic relations with Canada, given the strained bilateral ties. It came against the backdrop of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claim in the Canadian Parliament last month that its security forces were "actively pursuing credible allegations" linking Indian government agents to the murder of separatist Khalistan Tiger Force leader and wanted terrorist in India Hardeep Singh Nijjar – branded by the MEA as “absurd and motivated”.
In its latest statement, the MEA noted: “The state of our bilateral relations, the much higher number of Canadian diplomats in India, and their continued interference in our internal affairs warrant a parity in mutual diplomatic presence in New Delhi and Ottawa.
“We have been engaged with the Canadian side on this over the last month in order to work out the details and modalities of its implementation. Our actions in implementing this parity are fully consistent with Article 11.1 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations… We reject any attempt to portray the implementation of parity as a violation of international norms.”
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The UK and US governments, allies of both Canada and India, have since waded into the controversy expressing concerns over the departure of 41 Canadian diplomats from India.
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said in a statement: “Resolving differences requires communication and diplomats in respective capitals. We do not agree with the decisions taken by the Indian government that have resulted in a number of Canadian diplomats departing India.
“We expect all states to uphold their obligations under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The unilateral removal of the privileges and immunities that provide for the safety and security of diplomats is not consistent with the principles or the effective functioning of the Vienna Convention.
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“We continue to encourage India to engage with Canada on its independent investigation into the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.”
Meanwhile, the US State Department said it was “concerned” by the departure of Canadian diplomats from India.
“Resolving differences requires diplomats on the ground. We have urged the Indian government not to insist upon a reduction in Canada’s diplomatic presence and to cooperate in the ongoing Canadian investigation,” reads its statement.