Canada has withdrawn two-thirds of its diplomats based in India after that country said it would revoke their diplomatic immunity this Friday, further ratcheting up tension between the two countries.
India and Canada have been at increasingly bitter odds since the assertion last month by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Indian government agents had played a role in the killing in British Columbia of a Sikh separatist who was a Canadian citizen.
Mélanie Joly, the Canadian foreign minister, told reporters on Thursday that India had offered “no good reason” for revoking the diplomats’ immunity, which she called a violation of international law.
Canada had been in talks with India to avert the effective expulsion. Ms. Joly declined to discuss the status of those negotiations as she condemned India’s decision as a blow to the global agreement that ensures the safety of diplomats.
“Immunities allow diplomats to do their work without fear of reprisal or arrest from the country they’re in,” Ms. Joly said. “They are a fundamental, fundamental principle of diplomacy. And this is a two-way street. They only work if every country abides by the rules.”
She added that India’s action was “unreasonable and escalatory.”
Forty-one Canadian diplomats left India on Wednesday along with 42 of their family members, Ms. Joly said. With 21 diplomats remaining in India, Ms. Joly said that Canada will temporarily close three consulates there and concentrate services at its main diplomatic mission in Delhi, the capital.
Because India’s action is outside of the rules in the Geneva Convention that govern diplomatic relations between nations, Ms. Joly said that Canada will not make a similar, retaliatory move, as is often the case in such diplomatic disputes.
“If we allow the norm of diplomatic immunity to be broken, no diplomats anywhere on the planet would be safe,” she said. “So for this reason, we will not reciprocate.”
The diplomatic departures that were announced Thursday are not the first arising out of the feud, although they are by far the largest.
Canada told the head of India’s security service in the country to leave when Mr. Trudeau publicly said that India was involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia. India swiftly ordered a Canadian diplomat to return home. India has also suspended visa applications by Canadian nationals.
Ms. Joly’s office said that the high commissioner from Canada, the title used by the country’s ambassadors to other Commonwealth countries, has not left India.
India is Canada’s largest source of permanent immigrants, temporary foreign workers and foreign students. Marc Miller, Canada’s immigration minister, said that the departure of the diplomats would cause delays in the processing of visas and immigration applications for people in India. The 10 visa centers where Indians submit their initial applications, he said, are operated by contractors and will remain open, and his department will attempt to limit delays.
“Canada is determined to welcome all Indian citizens who wish to come here to visit the country, work, study, be with their loved ones, or make Canada their home,” he told reporters.
Ms. Joly declined to comment on what discussions, if any, Canadian officials are conducting with India about the assertion that Indian officials were involved in the shooting death of Mr. Nijjar, a prominent advocate of the creation of an independent nation, Khalistan, that would include parts of India’s Punjab State.
The Indian diplomatic mission in Ottawa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“This is a stunningly bad decision by the Indian government,” said Errol Mendes, a professor of international law at the University of Ottawa. “You normally only force the withdrawal of that many people when you are saying that you want to be an adversary.”