Canada has initiated a significant retraction of its diplomatic presence in India amidst escalating tensions, marking a steep decline in the countries’ bilateral relations.
The drastic measure, announced on Thursday, involves the withdrawal of 41 diplomats following a severe dispute triggered by the assassination of a Sikh separatist in Canada.
Strained Ties and Allegations of Espionage
Melanie Joly, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, verified the withdrawal, revealing the pressure exerted by New Delhi. Indian authorities threatened to strip the diplomatic immunity of many Canadian representatives, prompting Canada to orchestrate a swift and comprehensive evacuation of its diplomatic staff.
The relationship between Canada and India soured considerably after Canadian officials accused Indian intelligence of involvement in killing Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a proponent of Sikh separatism, earlier this year. Despite India’s denials and demands for evidence, the dispute has seen retaliatory actions such as visa service suspensions and diplomatic expulsions.
While Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar professed India’s readiness to consider any substantial evidence, he accused Canada of harbouring Sikh separatist leaders involved in organized crime. The tension extends beyond diplomatic circles, with violent protests erupting within Canada’s considerable Sikh community, further straining the countries’ relationship.
The demand for a separate Sikh state, Khalistan, though diminished within India itself, finds resonance among some segments of Canada’s Sikh population. Recent demonstrations outside Indian consulates, featuring flag burnings and denunciations of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, amplify the conflict’s complexity and reach, affecting community members’ sense of security in Canada and abroad.