Trudeau Defends Canadian Diplomatic Presence Amid Rising Tensions with India

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In response to mounting tension and diplomatic strain between Canada and India, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlighted the significance of having Canadian diplomats in India. Responding to India’s request to cut back the Canadian diplomatic presence, Trudeau emphasised that these diplomats play a crucial role in navigating these contentious times.

India has reportedly requested the withdrawal of 41 of the 62 Canadian diplomats by the following week. This development, while not unexpected, signals a sharp increase in the frictions that surfaced after Prime Minister Trudeau laid explosive allegations against the Indian government in the House of Commons.

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Trudeau referenced credible intelligence tying the Indian government to the assassination in June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh leader who, for decades, has been labelled a terrorist by India.

This demand from India emerged less than a fortnight after its initial request for Canada to maintain parity of diplomatic presence in the respective countries. Canada has traditionally maintained a more substantial diplomatic footprint in India, partly due to India’s significantly larger population, which includes approximately 1.3 million Canadians of Indian origin.

While he did not confirm or deny the reports, Trudeau suggested that compliance with India’s request was not guaranteed. “We’re encountering an exceptionally challenging time with India at present,” he remarked on his way to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill. “That’s why it’s essential to have our diplomats there, interacting with the Indian government and providing support to Canadians and Canadian families.”

Echoing the sentiment, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly remarked, “During times of tension, it’s even more essential to have diplomats on the ground. We continue to place importance on a robust diplomatic presence in India. We continue to engage with the Indian government on this matter.”

Deputy spokesperson for the State Department, Vedant Patel, reiterated the U.S government’s deep concern, emphasizing the need for Canada’s investigation to continue unhindered and for the culprit of the assassination plot to be brought to justice. The U.S. has continually urged Indian cooperation in this investigation, both publicly and privately.

Furthermore, it was revealed that the allegations gain credibility with intelligence gathered by one of the Five Eyes security alliance countries, which include the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Trudeau’s allegations against the Indian government, according to India’s external affairs minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, are “not in line with our policy.” Albeit, he stated that India was open to investigation if Trudeau’s government had relevant information to share. Jaishankar further noted that Canada’s “permissive” attitude towards Sikh separatists has been a longstanding issue of discord between the countries.