A discreet rendezvous took place between India’s External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, and his Canadian counterpart, Melanie Joly, during his recent visit to Washington, reports the Financial Times. This clandestine meeting comes amidst a simmering diplomatic row between the two nations, with Canada being asked to withdraw additional diplomats from India.
Although the secret meeting raised eyebrows, the Canadian foreign ministry has yet to make a statement regarding the encounter. This behind-the-scenes dialogue unfolded during Jaishankar’s US visit, where he engaged with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NSA Jake Sullivan, with the issue of Canada emerging as a notable discussion point.
Canada found itself in a diplomatic standoff after its Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, publicly accused India of being involved in the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. This allegation sparked tension, prompting India to assert that there were more Canadian diplomats in India than Indian diplomats in Canada. Accusing the Canadian diplomats of meddling in India’s internal affairs, New Delhi issued a demand for the withdrawal of 41 Canadian diplomats from India, with a deadline set for October 10. Reports have since indicated that Canada began relocating several diplomats based in India, transferring them to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
According to the Financial Times, “Several days earlier, Joly also held a secret meeting with India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar in Washington, said people familiar with the situation. Canada’s foreign ministry declined to comment.”
The heart of the dispute lies in a disagreement over the interpretation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. India cites the treaty to justify its call for diplomatic parity, while Canada disputes this interpretation, alleging that New Delhi has misread the treaty that underpins diplomatic relations.
In response to Canada’s allegations, India has sought specific information regarding the case in question. Jaishankar clarified India’s position, maintaining that it is not India’s policy to engage in such activities. Canada, on the other hand, contends that they had shared information regarding Hardeep Singh Nijjar weeks before the dispute came to the forefront—prior to Trudeau’s meeting with PM Modi and his public allegations.
While Trudeau expressed Canada’s desire to avoid escalation with India, Melanie Joy emphasized Canada’s intention to pursue private engagement with India to address this matter. The situation remains in flux as both nations navigate this intricate diplomatic dilemma.