Canada said Thursday it had withdrawn 41 diplomats from India’s fallout from a bitter row over the killing of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil.
New Delhi planned to revoke diplomatic immunity for all but 21 of Canada’s diplomats and their families by Friday, forcing Ottawa to pull out the others, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said.
“We have facilitated their safe departure from India,” Joly added. “This means that our diplomats and their families have now left.”
Relations between India and Canada have plunged since Ottawa last month publicly linked Indian intelligence to the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar near Vancouver in June.
Nijjar advocated for a separate Sikh state carved out of India.
Canada has called for India to cooperate in the investigation but New Delhi has rejected the allegations and taken countermeasures, such as shutting down visa services for Canadians.
Ottawa also expelled an Indian diplomat over the affair.
Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said last month in New York that his country would be willing to examine any evidence presented by Canada.
“We have actually been badgering the Canadians. We’ve given them loads of information about organized crime leadership which operates out of Canada,” Jaishankar said, referring to Sikh separatists.
“We have a situation where actually our diplomats are threatened, our consulates have been attacked and often comments are made (that are) interference in our politics,” he said.
Canada is home to some 770,000 Sikhs, or about two percent of the country’s population, with a vocal group calling for creating a separate state of Khalistan.
Hundreds of Sikh protesters rallied outside Indian diplomatic missions in Canada last month, burning flags and trampling on pictures of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We are not safe back home in Punjab, we are not safe in Canada,” said Joe Hotha, a member of the Sikh community in Toronto.
The Sikh separatist movement is largely finished within India where security forces used deadly force to put down an insurgency in the 1980s.