India tells Canada to withdraw 41 diplomats by 10 October

Canadian High Commission in Delhi
Reuters file photo

India has told Canada that it must repatriate 41 diplomats by Oct. 10 as a diplomatic dispute between the two nations deepens, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

Bilateral ties have become seriously strained over Canadian suspicion that Indian government agents had a role in the June murder in Canada of a Sikh separatist leader and Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who India had labeled a "terrorist".

India has dismissed the allegation as absurd.

The Financial Times, citing people familiar with the Indian demand, said India had threatened to revoke the diplomatic immunity of those diplomats told to leave who remained after 10 October.

Canada has 62 diplomats in India and India had said that the total should be reduced by 41, the newspaper said.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau declined to confirm the report of the expulsions but said Ottawa was not looking to escalate the dispute.

"We're taking this extremely seriously, but we're going to continue to engage responsibly and constructively within with the Government of India," he told reporters on Tuesday.

The Indian and Canadian foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said earlier there was a "climate of violence" and an "atmosphere of intimidation" against Indian diplomats in Canada, where the presence of Sikh separatist groups has frustrated New Delhi.