India’s decision to revoke immunity to Canada diplomats violation of Vienna Convention, says Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that India’s decision to revoke diplomatic immunity to 41 Canadian diplomats stationed there was a “violation of the Vienna Convention governing diplomacy” and will also impact “”millions of Canadians who trace their origins to the Indian subcontinent.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York, U.S., September 21, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo (REUTERS)

Speaking at an event in the town of Brampton in the Greater Toronto Area or GTA on Friday morning, Trudeau said, “The actions that the Government of India took this week are themselves contrary to international law. The Government of India decided to unilaterally revoke the diplomatic immunity of 40 Canadian diplomats in India. This is a violation of the Vienna Convention governing diplomacy. This is them choosing to contravene a very fundamental principle of international law and diplomacy.”

He said this would be of concern not only to Canada but other countries as well.

He also referred to the Indo-Canadian diaspora, as he said, “It also has very real impacts on the millions of people who travel back and forth between India, as students, as family members, for weddings, for businesses, for the growing trade ties between our countries.”

Flanked by Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities, Kamal Khera, and the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, Sean Fraser, Trudeau added, “”This is something that has far-reaching consequences for the diplomatic world that I know many, many countries are very worried about.”

India’s Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement on Friday had dismissed Canada’s charges that international law was being violated, as it said, “”The state of our bilateral relations, the much higher number of Canadian diplomats in India, and their continued interference in our internal affairs warrant a parity in mutual diplomatic presence in New Delhi and Ottawa.”

Earlier on Thursday afternoon, the Canadian Government announced that 41 of its diplomats and their dependents in India have departed, a day prior to the deadline set by New Delhi for their withdrawal, failing which they were liable to lose diplomatic immunity. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly said Ottawa has “decided not to reciprocate” even as the development was defined as “expulsion” of the Canadian diplomats.

The diplomatic drawdown came after India sought “parity” in the strength of Canada’s diplomatic presence by brining down the those stationed in the country from 62 to 21.

Speaking at a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Joly said, “I can confirm that India has formally conveyed its plan to unilaterally remove diplomatic immunities for all but 21 Canadian diplomats and dependents in Delhi by tomorrow, October 20.”

She added, “Given the implications of India’s actions on the safety of our diplomats, we have facilitated their safe departure from India.”

“This means that our diplomats and their families have now left and are on their way home,” she said.

In a statement from the country’s foreign ministry, Global Affairs Canada, Joly said, “India accredited each and every one of the Canadian diplomats they are now expelling. And all of those diplomats were carrying out their duties in good faith, and to the greater benefit of both countries.”

The original deadline for bringing down the number of Canadian diplomats in India was October 10. But Canada had let that deadline elapse, while engaging in private negotiations with India. However, those talks appear to have failed.

However, she added that Canada will “continue to engage” with India, as “Now more than ever, we need to have diplomats on the ground and we need to talk to one another.”

Joly said, “Canada will continue to defend international law, which applies equally to all states. Canada will continue to engage India and remains committed to dialogue as we move forward.”

She also said the decision by India was unprecedented. “A unilateral revocation of diplomatic privileges and immunities is contrary to international law. It is a clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” she argued. She added that threatening to strip such immunity was “unreasonable and escalatory” since that allows “diplomats to do their work, without fear of reprisal or arrest from the country they are in.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR India’s decision to revoke immunity to Canada diplomats violation of Vienna Convention, says Trudeau

Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb. …view detail

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