Canada evacuates 41 diplomats from India: FM Melanie Joly

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Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly [Instagram/Mélanie Joly]

Canada evacuated its 41 diplomats and 42 accompanying dependents from India after New Delhi “threatened to strip them of their diplomatic immunity”, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly has said.

Addressing a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, the Canadian Foreign Minister said: “I can confirm that India has formally conveyed its plan to unilaterally remove diplomatic immunities for all but 21 Canadian diplomats and dependents in Delhi by tomorrow, October 20.”

“India’s decision to declare persona non grata is unreasonable. But we will not retaliate,” Joly said while responding to a media query on whether Canada will retaliate by requiring India to reduce its diplomatic headcount in Canada, Xinhua news agency reported.

Joly, who spoke alongside Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller, said that only 21 Canadian diplomats would be stationed in India from now onwards.

“The safety of Canadians and of our diplomats is always my top concern. Given the implications of India’s actions on the safety of our diplomats, we have facilitated their safe departure from India,” Joly said. “This means that our diplomats and their families have now left.”

She accused India of unilaterally revoking diplomatic privileges and immunities by going against international law. “It is a clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” she said. “And threatening to do so is unreasonable and escalatory.”

Joly also announced that India’s move to declare persona non grata to 41 diplomats will impact the level of service delivery Canada will be able to provide in that country.

“We are going to pause all in-person services at our consulates in Chandigarh, Mumbai and Bangalore,” the Canadian Foreign Minister said.

India’s External Affairs Ministry had given an ultimatum to Canada to reduce its diplomatic staff by October 20.

“We had no choice but to comply. The safety of Canadians, of our diplomats, is always my top concern,” Joly said.

The fresh development came amid strained ties between Canada and India after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in mid-September accused Indian government agents of being behind the assassination of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil.

Shortly after Trudeau’s remarks, the Canadian government announced the dismissal of a senior Indian diplomat in Canada, for his alleged involvement in the killing of Nijjar in the Canadian Province of British Columbia in June.

In response, India’s External Affairs Ministry rejected the Canadian claims, expelling Olivier Sylvestere, a senior Canadian diplomat based in New Delhi.

Both countries subsequently issued travel advisories urging their citizens to “exercise utmost caution” while travelling to some regions in the other country. Furthermore, India’s visa processing centre in Canada suspended services.

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