Canada’s inability to provide safety and security to Indian diplomats challenges the “most fundamental aspect” of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said on Sunday. Mr. Jaishankar’s remarks came two days after Canada withdrew 41 of its diplomats from India and “paused” walk-in services at its consulates in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chandigarh, affecting Canadian visa facilities for Indians.
Indian missions in Canada had stopped issuing visas last month, but Dr. Jaishankar said that India would like to resume visa services if the working conditions for Indian diplomats improved in Canada.
“My hope, my expectation is that the situation would improve in the sense that our people would have greater confidence in being able to do their basic duty as diplomats. Because ensuring safety and security of diplomats is the most fundamental aspect of the Vienna Convention. And right now, that is what has in many ways been challenged in Canada — that our people are not safe, our diplomats are not safe,” Dr. Jaishankar said. “If we see progress there, I would like very much to resume the issue of visas,” he added. He was speaking at the Kautilya Economic Conclave New Delhi.
Security situation review
An informed source told The Hindu that India is at present reviewing the security situation that led to the suspension of visa services in Indian missions in Canada.
In the context of the withdrawal of Canadian diplomats from India, Ottawa’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly had accused New Delhi of violating the Vienna Convention saying, “A unilateral revocation of diplomatic privileges and immunities is contrary to international law, including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.” Ms. Joly’s October 19 remarks were followed up by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who accused India of violating a “very basic principle of diplomacy”.
Canada’s position drew quick support from the U.S. and the U.K. A statement from the U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on Friday said that India’s move impacted the principles of the Vienna Convention, while the U.S. State Department said that the resolution of differences between the countries requires diplomats on the ground in India.
Problematic ‘segment’ of Canadian politics
In his response, Dr. Jaishankar said that India is “very closely tracking” the situation in Canada and referred to the threats issued by certain pro-Khalistan groups who had called for the murder of prominent Indian diplomats. Without naming the support for pro-Khalistan elements in Canada, the Minister further argued that India’s problem is with a “certain segment” of Canadian politics.
The problem had accelerated after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau informed the Canadian parliament on September 18 that he believed Indian agents were involved in the June killing of pro-Khalistan figure Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Soon after that, Canada had expelled a senior Indian diplomat soon, followed by an expulsion of a Canadian diplomat by India. New Delhi subsequently invoked the issue of parity in diplomatic representation between the two sides.
The Ministry of External Affairs, on its part, insisted that the main issue was not about withdrawal or expulsion of diplomats, but about “parity”. India wanted Canada to adhere to “parity” in diplomatic representation, arguing that Ottawa was maintaining a “much higher” number of diplomats in India. MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi also accused Canadian diplomats stationed in India of “interfering” in domestic Indian affairs, an argument reiterated by Dr. Jaishankar on Sunday.
“We invoked parity because we had concerns about continuous interference in our affairs by Canadian personnel. We haven’t made much of that public. My sense is that over a period of time more stuff will come out and people will understand why we had the kind of discomfort with many of them which we did,” Dr. Jaishankar said.