Canada has shifted a number of its diplomats stationed at missions in India outside of New Delhi to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, CTV news of Canada has reported citing sources.
The report came a day after External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi informed that the two sides were in conversation to ensure “parity” in the presence of diplomatic staff in each other’s missions.
The Ministry is yet to comment on the report and the High Commission of Canada said it had “no comment” to offer. During the weekly press briefing held on Thursday, Mr. Bagchi did not confirm if India wanted evacuation of 41 Canadian diplomats as was reported by the Financial Times on October 3 but reiterated that Canada maintained “much higher” diplomatic presence in India. He said: “I would assume there would be a reduction.”
Citing Canadian sources, CTV news reported on Friday that the issue was not about removing 41 diplomats but to address India’s call for “parity” in diplomatic staff. Movement of foreign diplomats from India to neighbouring countries is a rare development indicating nosediving relation between Ottawa and New Delhi.
For more than a fortnight, India-Canada relation has been caught in an unprecedented crisis over the June 18 murder of Khalistan Tiger Force chief Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The matter took a dramatic turn when Prime Minister Trudeau took it up in the Canadian parliament and blamed Indian agents for being behind the murder.
Canada expelled a senior Indian diplomats immediately after Mr. Trudeau made the statement in the House of Commons on September 18. India described the charge as “absurd” and hit back by expelling a senior Canadian diplomat from the Canadian High Commission here. Further, India also implemented a visa ban for Canadian citizens which, however, exempted owners of valid Indian visas and PIO-card holders.
The Financial Times report, however, indicated an escalation in the crisis which came more or less simultaneously with a slew of comments by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who in his public comments in the U.S. referred to Canada giving space to extremists.
Mr. Trudeau and Foreign Minister Melanie Joly has maintained that they were in talks with India with the latter maintaining that it was necessary for Canada to have diplomats on the ground in Delhi as relation between the two sides has hit an “extremely challenging time”.