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  4. Canadian Foreign Minister left red-faced, unable to answer query on evidence over Nijjar's killing | WATCH

Canadian Foreign Minister left red-faced, unable to answer query on evidence over Nijjar's killing | WATCH

Joly announced that 41 Canadian diplomats and their family members have left India after New Delhi set a deadline, after which their diplomatic immunity would be revoked. She also announced that consular services will be closed in three cities - Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chandigarh.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Ottawa (Canada) Published on: October 20, 2023 11:50 IST
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly addressing the media
Image Source : ANI Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly addressing the media on Friday (IST).

While confirming that Canada has formally removed 41 diplomats from India amid a diplomatic standoff, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly was left red-faced after she fumbled to answer a query on whether Ottawa has been able to provide evidence to confirm Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's recent allegations.

Trudeau had made explosive allegations last month of a 'potential' involvement of the Indian government behind the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The allegations, dismissed by India as 'absurd' and 'politically motivated', started a major dispute between the two countries.

During the press conference, Joly was asked whether Canada had shown any evidence to back Trudeau's claims, she was visibly fumbling and was unable to answer the question, instead saying that both sides have held "numerous conversations" through which Indian officials were apprised of "credible allegations".

"I have told you that there were meetings and information was shared," the Canadian Foreign Minister spoke when the journalist asked her for a second time.

Earlier today, Joly announced that Canada has evacuated its 41 diplomats and 42 other members of the staff from India after New Delhi said that it would revoke their diplomatic immunity. She said that the move will affect consulate services in both countries and paused services in Chandigarh, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

"A unilateral revocation of the diplomatic privilege and immunity is contrary to international law and a clear violation of the Geneva Convention on diplomatic relations. Threatening to do so is unreasonable and escalatory," Joly further said.

What will happen after the removal of diplomats?

After Canada cancelled services in three major cities, consular facilities will only be availed through the High Commission in New Delhi. According to the Canadian Immigration Minister, there would be a slowdown in Indian visa applications and the process will take more time due to reduced staff.

This basically means that Indian citizens would face delays in overall processing times, responses to enquiries and getting visas or their passports back. Canada's government officials said that 45% of Canada's international students, 27% of new permanent residents and 22% of temporary foreign workers come from India, reported CBC News.

The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) department said that its employees in India have been reduced from 27 to five. "The 5 Canada-based IRCC staff who remain in India will focus on work that requires an in-country presence such as urgent processing, visa printing, risk assessment and overseeing key partners," it said.

Meanwhile, Joly assured that Canada would not retaliate to India's demand for the withdrawal of Canadian diplomats, saying that this would "put so many countries' different diplomats around the world in danger". 

Why were the diplomats removed?

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. 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. 

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 previously expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move.

(with agency inputs)

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