The diplomatic rift between India and Canada continues to grow as both countries carry out 'tit-for-tat' political reprisals.
India announced on Thursday that it has stopped issuing visas to Canadian citizens and told Canada to reduce its diplomatic staff on its territory.
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi blamed the visa suspension, which includes visas issued in third countries, on safety issues.
“Security threats being faced by our High Commission and consulates in Canada have disrupted their normal functioning,” Bagchi told reporters. He gave no details on the alleged threats.
This follows the expulsion of an Indian diplomat from Canada and allegations made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week, who accused India of being involved in the death of a Sikh separatist and activist on Canadian soil.
The allegation of India’s involvement in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar is based on surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, including intelligence provided by a major ally, a Canadian official told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official said the communications involved Indian officials and Indian diplomats in Canada and that some of the intelligence was provided by a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to Canada.
The official did not say which ally provided the intelligence and didn't give details of what was contained in the communications, or how they were obtained.
Frosty ties between Ottowa and New Delhi over allegations
Relations between the two countries have plunged to their lowest point in years after Trudeau told Parliament Monday there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the assassination on Canadian soil.
Nijjar, a plumber who was born in India and became a Canadian citizen in 2007, had been wanted by India for years before he was gunned down in June outside the temple he led in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver.
Speaking Thursday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Trudeau acknowledged the complicated diplomatic situation.
"The decision to share these allegations on the floor of the House of Commons was not done lightly,” he said. “There is no question that India is a country of growing importance and a country that we need to continue to work with."
“We are not looking to provoke or cause problems but we are unequivocal around the importance of the rule of law and unequivocal about the importance of protecting Canadians.”
The bombshell allegation set off an international tit-for-tat, with each country expelling a diplomat. India called the allegations “absurd.”
Canada has yet to provide public evidence to back Trudeau's allegations, and Canada's UN ambassador, Bob Rae, indicated that might not come soon.
Signs of a broader diplomatic rift emerged at the summit of the Group of 20 leading world economies hosted by India earlier this month. Trudeau had frosty encounters with Modi, and a few days later Canada canceled a trade mission to India planned for the fall. A trade deal between the two is now on pause.