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Canada is expected to withdraw dozens of diplomats from India after the countries failed to resolve a dispute related to Ottawa’s claims that New Delhi may have been involved in the murder of a Canadian citizen.
Ottawa was preparing to repatriate 41 diplomats imminently, according to one person familiar with the plan. Canada and India have been negotiating the fate of the diplomats for weeks after India had set an October 10 deadline for their withdrawal.
The sides had continued negotiations even after the deadline passed. The Financial Times previously reported that Canada’s foreign minister Mélanie Joly held a secret meeting with Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar in Washington last month, but the two sides failed to reach an agreement to allow the Canadian diplomats to remain in India.
Joly is expected to hold a press conference about the situation at 3.30pm in Ottawa.
The spat erupted last month when Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said there were “credible allegations” that India may have been involved in the murder in a Vancouver suburb of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh leader who was part of a movement pushing for an independent Sikh state in India.
After Trudeau’s bombshell claim India told Canada to withdraw 41 of its 62 diplomats and said that any who remained after the deadline would lose diplomatic immunity.
India has described the Canadian claim, which Trudeau raised with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit in New Delhi in August, as “absurd”. US president Joe Biden also raised the issue with the Indian leader.
India told Ottawa 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.
New Delhi cited the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as the justification for parity. But Canada rejected that argument, saying India was misreading the treaty that provides a framework for diplomatic ties.