US, UK back Canada in dispute with India over diplomats' removal

Canada says Indian government agents were involved in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist leader, in suburban Vancouver. (Photo/AFP Archive)

The US State Department has urged India not to insist on Canada reducing its diplomatic presence in the country after Ottawa was forced to pulled out 41 diplomats this week amid a dispute over the murder of a Sikh separatist leader.

"We are concerned by the departure of Canadian diplomats from India, in response to the Indian government's demand of Canada to significantly reduce its diplomatic presence in India," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Friday.

Britain also reaffirmed its position against India's decision taken.

"We do not agree with the decisions taken by the Indian government that have resulted in a number of Canadian diplomats departing India," the UK Foreign Ministry said.

Washington has said it took Canada's allegations seriously and urged India to cooperate with Canada in the murder probe even as the US and other Western powers have been reluctant to openly condemn India.

Analysts say the US does not want to damage ties with India whom it views as a counterbalance to its main Asian rival China.

But Friday's statement from the US has been the most direct criticism by Washington of New Delhi thus far in this case.

"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," the State Department spokesperson said on Friday.

"We expect India to uphold its obligations under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, including with respect to privileges and immunities enjoyed by accredited members of Canada's diplomatic mission," the State Department added.

Indian diaspora in Canada

New Delhi causing 41 Canadian diplomats to leave India has led to misery for millions of people with ties to India, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

"It…has very real impacts on the millions of people who travel back and forth between India, as students, as family members, for weddings, for businesses, for the growing trade ties between our countries," Trudeau said.

The expelling of diplomats is "making it unbelievably difficult [for] millions of Canadians who trace their origins to the Indian subcontinent."

The diplomats had little choice but to get out as India said it would revoke their diplomatic immunity, so 41 diplomats and 42 dependents were pulled from the country this week.

Canada has a large Indian diaspora, with about 1.3 million of Indian heritage, according to the Government of Canada website.

The number of Indians immigrating to Canada has more than tripled since 2013, to 118,095 in 2022, from 32,828, according to Forbes.

As of September, there were about 320,000 Indian students in Canada.

The prime minister’s words were borne out by 24-hour lineups at the BLS International Office in the city of Brampton near Toronto, even though the office is only open on weekday mornings.

Brampton and area are home to hundreds of thousands of people of India heritage.

The BLS office is a service provider for the Indian government. Since India has stopped issuing visas for Canadians, those wanting to go to India must apply for an Overseas Citizens of India card, something not required previously.

There were about 277,000 visits to India from Canada in 2022, according to the Hindu Business Line website.

Diplomatic row

Trudeau's comments came after Canadian accusations that Indian government agents were involved in the assassination of a Sikh separatist leader in suburban Vancouver.

Trudeau said last month that there were "credible allegations" of Indian involvement in the slaying of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh leader whom masked gunmen killed in June in Surrey, outside Vancouver.

India dismissed Canada's allegations as "absurd" and, in turn, accused Ottawa of harbouring "extremists."

Canada is home to the largest Sikh community in the world outside of India, with 770,000 Canadians professing Sikhism in 2021, or two percent of the country's population.


Source: TRT