India asks Canada to reduce diplomats' presence in country citing 'interference in our affairs'
New Delhi/IBNS: The Centre Thursday said it had asked Canada to downsize its diplomatic presence in India as it cited the "interference of Canadian diplomats in Indian affairs", amid the steadily worsening diplomatic row over the killing of a Khalistani terrorist.
This came 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 said, "Canadian diplomatic interference in our internal affairs is a factor".
India on Thursday said that Canada has become a safe haven for "terrorists, extremists, and organised crime". At the same time, Ottawa announced it was taking action to ensure the safety of its diplomats and temporarily adjusting staff presence in India.
In a weekly media briefing, India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) dismissed Ottawa's allegations about Indian agents' involvement in the murder of a Khalistani terrorist as "politically driven".
MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said there was a "degree of prejudice" in Canada's allegations. "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."
The MEA statement came amid growing tensions between India and Canada after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday told parliament that his country's security agencies have been actively pursuing "allegations" of a potential link between Indian government agents and
the murder of Khalistan Tiger Force chief Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June.
While New Delhi outrightly rejected Trudeau's allegation, calling it "absurd" and "motivated", the relations between the two countries have worsened with Canada and India expelling a senior diplomat each.
India has also issued a travel advisory for Indian nationals, particularly students, in Canada and also those contemplating travel to the North American country, asking them to exercise utmost caution.
Bagchi confirmed that Canada hasn't shared any specific information regarding the allegations. "From our side, very specific evidence of criminal activities based on Canadian soil has been shared with the
Canadian authorities on a regular basis but has not been acted upon," the MEA spokesperson said.
The allegations were raised by Trudeau with PM Modi when the Canadian PM was in India to attend the G20 summit. PM Modi rejected the allegations, the MEA reiterated.
[With UNI inputs]