Canada prides itself on being a beacon of human rights, championing causes across the world. However, in the context of the recent diplomatic tiff with India, this image stands tarnished. Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly’s recent comments, wherein she expressed concern over the safety of Canadian diplomats in India due to India’s revocation of their diplomatic status, is a glaring example of this very paradox.
India recently asked Canada to reduce its diplomatic strength and bring it at par with that of India in Canada. This request is standard practice in diplomacy and is known as diplomatic parity. It means that both countries have the same number of diplomats stationed in each other’s countries.
India’s request is based on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which states that “in the absence of specific agreement as to the size of the mission, the receiving State may require that the size of a mission be kept within limits considered by it to be reasonable and normal, having regard to circumstances and conditions in the receiving State and to the needs of the particular mission.”
Moreover, India provided Canada with a generous two-week notice concerning the withdrawal of diplomatic immunity for its additional staff stationed in the country. Contrary to some claims, this was not an abrupt decision. Notably, these diplomats departed India before the termination of their immunity, rendering concerns about their safety largely unfounded. It’s essential to approach Canada’s narrative with a balanced perspective.
What Foreign Minister Joly seems to conveniently overlook is the rather disconcerting track record Canada has had in ensuring the safety of Indian diplomats on its own soil. Over the past few years, India has raised alarm over multiple instances where its diplomats and consulates have been threatened, attacked, and vandalized. Despite these clear indicators of a hostile environment towards Indian diplomats, the Canadian government’s response has been lukewarm at best.
It is indeed bewildering to see Canada’s apprehension over its diplomats’ safety in India when there’s not a single recorded instance of any Canadian diplomat being harmed in the country. In stark contrast, Canada’s laissez-faire attitude towards the mounting threats its Indian counterparts face at home is nothing short of alarming.
The rise of Khalistani extremism and the resultant surge in anti-India sentiments in Canada cannot be brushed under the rug. It’s not just about isolated incidents; it’s about a growing pattern that the Canadian authorities have so far chosen to downplay. The ethos of India when it comes to guests is deeply rooted in ‘atithi devo bhava’, which translates to “Guest is God”. The very notion that India would compromise the safety of its guests goes against its cultural fabric.
But what about Canada? How can it justify its inertia in safeguarding Indian diplomats while expecting India to guarantee the security of Canadian diplomats?
India’s decision to revoke the diplomatic status of some Canadian diplomats can be seen as a message: India expects reciprocity. If Canadian diplomats are treated with respect and security in India, it is only fair that Indian diplomats receive the same in Canada. The onus now lies on the Canadian government to not just recognize the gravity of the threats faced by Indian diplomats, but to actively counter them.
Addressing Khalistani extremism and the propaganda against India is not merely about diplomacy; it’s about ensuring a safe environment for all. For Canada to truly live up to its global image, it needs to ensure the safety of every diplomat within its borders, irrespective of their nation of origin.
It’s high time Canada moves beyond mere rhetoric and takes concrete steps to protect the Indian diplomatic community. Anything less would be a disservice to the spirit of diplomacy and international cooperation.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Khalsa Vox or its members.