"Interference In Our Affairs": India Wants Reduction In Canada Diplomats

Earlier today, India suspended visa services in Canada, potentially impacting thousands seeking to travel to India.

"There should be parity, their numbers are much higher," said Foreign ministry. (File)

New Delhi:

The government today said it had asked Canada to downsize its diplomatic presence in India and cited the "interference of Canadian diplomats in Indian affairs", as the diplomatic row over the killing of a Khalistani terrorist escalated sharply.

This was hours after India suspended visa services in Canada, potentially impacting thousands seeking to travel to India.

"The Canadian diplomatic presence in India is larger than what India has and accordingly needs to be downsized," foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told reporters.

"We have informed the Canadian government that there should be parity in diplomatic presence. Their numbers are very much higher than ours in Canada... I assume there will be a reduction," he said.

The spokesperson added that "Canadian diplomatic interference in our internal affairs is a factor".

On India suspending visa applications in Canada, the foreign ministry cited "security threats" that were "disrupting" the work of their officials. Mission personnel were unable to carry out visa functions because of the security environment that they were facing, said the spokesperson.

"For now, the security situation in Canada and because of Canadian government inaction, we have stopped visa services temporarily", Mr Bagchi said.

The suspension of visas came a day after the foreign ministry said it was concerned for the safety of its citizens in Canada because of "politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence".

"Threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda," said the foreign ministry.

Canada's High Commission had earlier said it would "adjust" diplomat numbers in India after "threats on various social media" against their staff.

"In light of the current environment where tensions have heightened, we are taking action to ensure the safety of our diplomats. As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India," it had said in a statement.

India-Canada ties have hit a new low after Justin Trudeau's allegation that Indian agents played a role in the murder of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar near Vancouver in June. India has called the allegation "absurd and motivated". 

Nijjar was killed by masked gunmen outside a Gurdwara on June 18 in Surrey. India has firmly rejected Mr Trudeau's allegations, saying he offered no evidence.

"We are willing to look at any specific information that is provided to us, but so far we have received no specific information from Canada," Mr Bagchi said, adding that Canada's inaction was a huge concern.

"From our side, specific evidence about criminal activities by individuals based on Canadian soil has been shared with Canada but not acted upon...Yes, I do think there is a degree of prejudice here. They have made allegations and taken action on them. To us, it seems that these allegations by the government of Canada are primarily politically driven," he added.

Mr Trudeau's explosive charge was followed by tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions. Canada also suspended talks on a trade deal with India.