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Friday,  April 19, 2024 11:36 AM 

India suspends visa services in Canada amid rift over killing

  • Other
  •   09-21-2023  10:05 am
  •   Pax Global Media

India suspends visa services in Canada amid rift over killing
(Shutterstock/Kseniya Lanzarote)
Pax Global Media

India has suspended its visa services for Canadians as relations between the two countries weaken amid claims of India’s involvement in a Sikh activist’s killing in British Colombia in June.

"Important notice from Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 Sept. Indian visa services have been suspended [until] further notice," wrote the BLS Indian Visa Application Center in Canada in a statement.

No additional details are known at this time.  

BLS is the agency that takes care of visa requests for India, including for entry, tourist, student and employment visas. The centre has locations in Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

The move will undoubtedly disrupt travel and tourism. In 2021, 80,000 Canadian tourists visited India, making them the fourth-largest group, according to India's Bureau of Immigration.

Canada is also appealing for Indians, especially students. In 2022, nearly 300,000 Indians were pursuing education in Canada.

In a statement to CBC News, India's External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi cited unspecified security threats "being faced by our high commission and consulates in Canada."

"This has disrupted their normal functioning," Bagchi was quoted as saying. "Accordingly our high commission and consulates are temporarily unable to process visa applications."

The High Commission of Canada is saying that it temporarily adjusted its staffing at its commission and consulate locations in India, due to "some diplomats having received threats on various social media platforms."

"Global Affairs Canada will continue to take all appropriate measures to protect the health and safety of all our personnel, including locally-engaged staff, and to protect our operations in India," the commission said in a statement to CBC.

"In the context of respect for obligations under the Vienna conventions, we expect India to provide for the security of our accredited diplomats and consular officers in India, just as we are for theirs here.”

The move is being described as retaliatory by India’s foreign ministry, done in response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegation this week that there was “credible evidence” Delhi had been involved in the murder of activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar last June.

India has rejected the allegations as “absurd.”

On Wednesday (Sept. 20), India updated its travel advisory for Canada, warning its citizens to take “extreme caution” due to “growing anti-India activities and politically condoned hate crimes” in Canada.

Meanwhile, Canada’s own travel page for nationals travelling to India includes advisories of a “threat of terrorist attack throughout the country.”

The two sides have also announced they were suspending trade talks.

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