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Canada and India are continuing talks about the fate of several dozen Canadian diplomats in New Delhi even as an Indian government deadline for Ottawa to slash its diplomatic presence elapsed on Tuesday.
New Delhi last month told Canada to withdraw 41 of its 62 diplomats in the country by October 10 after Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, said there were “credible allegations” that India may have been linked to the murder of a Canadian Sikh activist near Vancouver in June.
Ottawa was trying to resolve the situation with New Delhi, which had warned that diplomats who stayed beyond the deadline would lose diplomatic immunity, said several people familiar with the situation. One Canadian official said Ottawa had not withdrawn any diplomats ahead of the deadline.
Relations between Canada and India plummeted last month when Trudeau told Canada’s parliament that Ottawa was pursuing allegations that India was behind the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh leader who was part of a movement pushing for an independent Sikh state in India.
India has described the accusations — which Trudeau raised with Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, at the G20 summit in New Delhi in September — as “absurd”. US President Joe Biden also raised the issue with India’s leader at the G20. The Financial Times previously reported that India did not deny the claims in private — which New Delhi has denied.
Following Trudeau’s bombshell claim, Canada and India each expelled one diplomat. India also stopped issuing visas to Canadians.
India also said it wanted “parity” in the number and rank of diplomats that each country has in the other. Ottawa has more diplomats in India than New Delhi has in Canada because of a big consular section that processes visas for families of the roughly 1.3mn Canadians who claim Indian heritage.
Trudeau and Mélanie Joly, Canada’s foreign minister, last week said Ottawa was trying to resolve the stand-off in private. Joly said the tensions between the countries underscored the “importance of having a strong diplomatic footprint in India”.
Several days earlier, Joly also held a secret meeting with India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar in Washington, said people familiar with the situation. Canada’s foreign ministry declined to comment.
India has cited the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as justifying its call for parity. Canada has rejected that argument, saying New Delhi is misreading the treaty that provides a framework for diplomatic ties.
Peter Boehm, chair of the Canadian Senate committee on foreign affairs and international trade, said there was nothing in the treaty that refers to parity or the unilateral determination of the number of diplomats.
“The Indians are way out in front,” Boehm told the FT.
“If India is a law-abiding nation, it will respect the terms of the Vienna convention . . . and act accordingly,” said Roland Paris, a foreign affairs professor at the University of Ottawa.
The Indian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the negotiations between the countries.
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