UK, US Express Concern Over Departure of Canadian Diplomats from India

The UK\'s statement followed the US government also backing Canada over the standoff

New Delhi: Canada’s partners in "Five Eyes", the United States of America and the United Kingdom, expressed concern over the departure of Canadian diplomats from India, saying they expect New Delhi to uphold its obligations under the 1961 Vienna Convention and urging India not to insist upon the reduction of the Canadian diplomats.

The ministry of external affairs said it is acting as per the Vienna Convention and cited Canadian law that provides for withdrawing diplomatic immunity and privileges at any time.

The US and UK backing comes a day after Canada withdrew 41 diplomats from India after New Delhi threatened to strip them of their diplomatic immunity by Friday. Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said India's decision was a violation of the Vienna Convention and should worry all countries.

“We are concerned by the departure of Canadian diplomats from India, in response to the Indian government's demand of Canada to significantly reduce its diplomatic presence in India. Resolving differences requires diplomats on the ground. We have urged the Indian government not to insist upon a reduction in Canada's diplomatic presence and to cooperate in the ongoing Canadian investigation,” US state department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

“We expect India to uphold its obligations under the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, including with respect to privileges and immunities enjoyed by accredited members of Canada's diplomatic mission,” Miller added.

The UK's foreign, commonwealth and development office (FCDO) spokesperson said, “Resolving differences requires communication and diplomats in respective capitals. We do not agree with the decisions taken by the Indian government that have resulted in a number of Canadian diplomats departing India.

We expect all states to uphold their obligations under the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. The unilateral removal of the privileges and immunities that provide for the safety and security of diplomats is not consistent with the principles or the effective functioning of the Vienna Convention. We continue to encourage India to engage with Canada on its independent investigation into the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.”

The MEA rejected Canada's attempt to "portray" the withdrawal of 41 Canadian diplomats from the country as a violation of international norms.

Sources said India’s action to limit the size of the Canadian high commission to bring parity with the strength of the Indian high commission in Ottawa was warranted by the state of India-Canada bilateral relations, the much higher number of Canadian diplomats in India and their continued interference in our internal affairs.

"Our action is as per the provisions of Article 11.1 of the Vienna Convention, which provides the receiving state with the right to limit the size of a diplomatic mission to what it considers reasonable and normal... Article 11.1 has been used in the past by other countries on many occasions. We had conveyed to Canada that in order to limit the size of the missions in New Delhi and Ottawa, only a specific number of diplomats as per parity will continue to enjoy diplomatic privileges and immunities,” sources said.

According to sources, India’s decision to seek parity was conveyed to Canada around one month ago, with a target implementation date of October 10. This date was extended till October 20 as details and modalities of implementation, including the list of Canadian diplomats who will continue to be accorded diplomatic immunities and privileges, were being worked out in consultation with the Canadian side.

“Attempts by Canada to portray this as an "arbitrary" and “overnight” decision are factually inaccurate,” they said.

Sources further said parity has been sought in the diplomatic representations of Indian missions in Ottawa and New Delhi. There is no impact on Canadian diplomatic strength in their consulates in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chandigarh. The Canadian decision to cease operations at their three consulates in India is unilateral and not related to the implementation of parity.

They highlighted that Canada's domestic legislation itself provides for comparable treatment of foreign diplomats in Canada to what its own diplomats get in a foreign country, as well as withdrawal of any of their diplomatic privileges and immunities.

Paragraph 4(1) of Canada’s Foreign Missions and International Organisations Act, which talks about the privileges, immunities and benefits of diplomats, says that the minister of foreign affairs may extend or withdraw any of the diplomatic privileges and immunities.

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