In a significant development reflecting the escalating tensions between India and Canada, India has suspended visa services for Canadian applicants, citing “operational reasons.”
The move comes as relations between the two nations strain over the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
The suspension of visa services went into effect on September 21, 2023, until further notice, according to an announcement from the visa application portal BLS.
The rift between India and Canada deepened following a contentious discussion surrounding the Khalistani issue during the recent G20 meeting in Delhi. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly stated that his government is investigating “credible allegations” linking Indian government agents to Nijjar’s assassination on June 18, outside a Sikh cultural centre in Surrey, British Columbia. India vehemently denies any involvement in the killing, dismissing the allegations as absurd.
The tit-for-tat measures between the two nations escalated further, with Canada expelling an Indian diplomat in retaliation after India took a similar step earlier. In recent days, Prime Minister Trudeau emphasised that while Canada does not intend to provoke India, strong measures must be taken to address the situation.
“The government of India needs to take this matter with the utmost seriousness. We are doing that; we are not looking to provoke or escalate,” Reuters quoted Trudeau as saying on Tuesday.
One significant concern arising from the deteriorating relations between India and Canada is whether it will hamper the immigration process for those planning to move to Canada. Immigration experts have reassured applicants, stating that Canada has little choice but to welcome immigrants to strengthen its economy. However, they caution that there may be temporary restrictions in place.
Canada has announced temporary adjustments to its diplomatic presence in India out of an abundance of caution, citing threats made on social media platforms against its diplomats. A spokesperson for Canada’s foreign ministry mentioned concerns over the safety of its diplomats as the reason for the adjustment.
“With some diplomats having received threats on various social media platforms, Global Affairs Canada is assessing its staff complement in India. As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India,” the spokesperson said, as quoted by Hindustan Times.
Canada has also called for increased security measures for its embassies, consulates, and high commissions in India, including locations in Mumbai, Chandigarh, Bengaluru, and New Delhi. In a parallel move, India has heightened security at its missions in Canada after posters bearing the message “Kill India” were posted by the Sikhs for Justice group in July.
Furthermore, India has called for enhanced security at its consulates in Toronto and Vancouver, as well as the high commission in Ottawa, following threats by the Sikhs for Justice to “shut down Indian missions” on September 25, labeling them “terror houses.”
In response to India’s concerns, the Canadian government has dismissed India’s travel warning to its citizens, urging them to exercise caution while traveling to Canada. Canadian Public Safety Minister Dominic Leblanc stated, “Canada is a safe country.”
As tensions continue to simmer, the international community watches closely, hoping for a peaceful resolution to the diplomatic crisis between India and Canada. The suspension of visa services adds a new layer of complexity to the ongoing dispute, raising questions about its potential impact on individuals and businesses in both countries.