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British PM Sunak underscores de-escalation of India-Canada diplomatic row in talks with Trudeau

During the conversation, Trudeau raised the matter of Canadian diplomats reportedly told to leave India. The Ministry of External Affairs cited "interference in internal matters" in seeking parity in diplomatic presence.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee London Published on: October 07, 2023 16:20 IST
British PM Rishi Sunak with his Canadian counterpart Justin
Image Source : AP British PM Rishi Sunak with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau on Friday underscored the importance of a de-escalation in the diplomatic row between India and Canada, in a private telephonic conversation.

According to a statement from 10 Downing Street, Sunak spoke to Trudeau on Friday, where the latter updated him on the situation regarding Canadian diplomats in India. Sunak hoped to see a de-escalation of the situation over the death of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

"The Prime Minister reaffirmed the UK’s position that all countries should respect sovereignty and the rule of law, including the principles of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," read the statement.

Similarly, the Canadian PM's Office said that the leaders discussed the need to manage global challenges in close partnership and the importance of respecting the rule of law.

"Prime Minister Trudeau provided an update on the current situation between Canada and India. The leaders emphasized respect for the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the need to ensure the safety and security of their citizens. They underscored the importance of de-escalation in this context," read the Canadian statement.

India-Canada diplomatic row

Tensions flared between India and Canada last month following Trudeau's allegations of "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 in British Columbia. India angrily rejected the allegations as "absurd" and "motivated".

Nijjar, a designated terrorist in India, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen in British Columbia province on June 18. Since Trudeau's allegations, India has suspended visa services for Canadians and asked Ottawa to downsize its diplomatic staff in the country, arguing for parity in strength and cautioning against interference in internal matters.

India also repeatedly asked Canada to come down hard on terrorists and anti-India elements operating from its soil, saying that the country has become a "safe haven" for such extremist activity. 

According to reports, India asked 41 Canadian diplomats to leave the country to maintain parity in strength and gave them a deadline of October 10. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said that "discussions are ongoing to achieve the parity".

"On discussions on parity, given the much higher presence of diplomats or diplomatic presence here and their interference in our internal matters, we have sought parity in our respective diplomatic presence. Discussions are ongoing to achieve this. Given that Canadian diplomatic presence is higher, we would assume that there would be a reduction," MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said during a weekly press briefing on Thursday.

During the earlier presser, he had stressed that the Canadian Embassy in New Delhi was "more than it is required" and conveyed Ottawa to maintain parity in the diplomatic staff. The Ministry had strongly rebuffed Trudeau's allegations as "baseless" and "politically motivated".

Not looking to escalate row with India: Trudeau

Meanwhile, Trudeau on Tuesday said that he is "not looking to escalate" the tensions with New Delhi and wants to have constructive relations. "We're not looking to escalate, as I've said, we're going to be doing the work that matters in continuing to have constructive relations with India through this extremely difficult time," CBC News quoted Trudeau as saying.

He further said that the dispute between both countries has made it "important for us to have diplomats on the ground working with the Indian government there to support Canadians and Canadian families." Trudeau asserted that his government was taking the matter extremely seriously and would attempt to engage "responsibly and constructively" with India. 

(with agency inputs)

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