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India fires fresh salvos in dispute with Canada

Activists from the United Hindu Front shout slogans during a protest against Canadian PM Justin Trudeau in New Delhi, India

Activists from the United Hindu Front shout slogans during a protest against Canadian PM Justin Trudeau in New Delhi, India

This week, India ordered Canada to repatriate dozens of diplomats by Oct. 10 or face its withdrawal of diplomatic immunity, and 41 of 62 Canadian diplomats in India were reportedly set to be expelled.

Ottawa would not confirm the news but did not contradict the report. “Obviously, we are going through an extremely challenging time with India right now, but that’s why it is so important for us to have diplomats on the ground working with the Indian government and there to support Canadians and Canadian families,” PM Justin Trudeau said.

The expulsions signal that India does not intend to back down in its dispute with Canada, which blew up last month when Trudeau said in Parliament that the Canadian government believed India was responsible for gunning down Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen whom India had labeled a terrorist.

PM Narendra Modi reacted angrily, condemning Canada for failing to crack down on Canadian Sikhs who desire an independent Khalistan. Indians have responded with overwhelming support for his nationalist message, attacking Canadian websites and falsely portraying Trudeau as a coke fiend.

Modi — who faces a national election next year — has shown no interest in lowering the temperature in this dispute. Canada has had to turn to the United States for support, hoping Uncle Sam can help smooth over tensions and get the relationship back on track.

The Americans reportedly provided intelligence to Canada to help in its investigation, and last week US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the Americans take the issue seriously. “There's not some special exemption you get for actions like this,” he said. “Regardless of the country, we will stand up and defend our basic principles and we will also consult closely with allies like Canada as they pursue their law enforcement and diplomatic process.”

Politico reported this week that the US Ambassador in New Delhi has warned his diplomats that they should expect to reduce their contacts with Indian officials while the dispute is active.

But Modi looks determined not to pay heed to Canadian complaints. He has the Indian public behind him, and he knows the Americans are unwilling to alienate a key Asian ally as they seek to show a common front in the face of Chinese aggression in the region.


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