Crisis between India and Canada: Ottawa will “adjust” the number of its diplomats in India, the crisis intensifies

Canada announced Thursday, September 21, a temporary reduction of its consular and diplomatic staff in India following threats published on social networks, in the midst of a diplomatic crisis with New Delhi, which, for its part, “suspended” the processing of Indian visas in Canada

Crisis between India and Canada: Ottawa will “adjust” the number of its diplomats in India, the crisis intensifies

Canada announced Thursday, September 21, a temporary reduction of its consular and diplomatic staff in India following threats published on social networks, in the midst of a diplomatic crisis with New Delhi, which, for its part, “suspended” the processing of Indian visas in Canada.

Suspicions of involvement weigh on the Indian authorities, with Ottawa claiming to rely on “credible elements”.

“As [Canadian] diplomats have received threats on various social media platforms, Canada's Department of International Affairs is currently assessing its personnel in India,” the Canadian mission in India said in a statement. The mission did not specify the number of staff affected, but said its offices were “open and operational”.

On Thursday morning, BLS International, the official body issuing visas to Indian citizens, said it was “suspending” the processing of Indian visas in Canada. “Important notice from the Indian mission: for operational reasons, effective September 21, 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended until further notice,” the Indian operator had specified on its website

Diplomatic relations at rock bottom

The Indian government has called Canadian accusations in the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar “absurd” and denied “any act of violence in Canada.” Since then, diplomatic relations between Canada and India have been at their lowest point, marked by reciprocal expulsions of diplomats.

Mr. Nijjar was shot dead in June in Canada by two masked men in the parking lot of the Sikh temple he led in Surrey, near Vancouver, British Columbia. He died of his injuries on the spot. An activist for the creation of “Khalistan”, an independent Sikh state in northern India, he arrived in Canada in 1997 and was naturalized in 2015.

He was wanted by Indian authorities for alleged acts of terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder. Accusations that he denied, according to the World Sikh Organization of Canada, a group defending the interests of Canadian Sikhs.

Since his murder and the violent protests that followed in Canada, relations between Ottawa and New Delhi have deteriorated sharply. Canada recently suspended negotiations for a free trade agreement with India and its trade minister last week canceled a planned trip to the country in October.

The affair worries beyond India and Canada: on Tuesday, Washington said it was “deeply concerned by the Canadian allegations”. “It is very important that Canada's investigation continues and that those responsible are brought to justice,” commented Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council. For its part, London considered it “particularly important” to let Canadian authorities lead the investigation. In Pakistan, members of the Sikh community have accused India of orchestrating the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.