New Delhi has taken the unprecedented step of indefinitely suspending visa services for Canadian nationals in the midst of escalating tensions between the two countries. This decision comes following allegations made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Indian involvement in the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, which has triggered a diplomatic dispute and led to the expulsion of senior diplomats from both nations.
Although there has been no formal announcement of the visa services suspension, BLS International, the entity responsible for operating visa application centers in Canada, posted a message on its Canadian website confirming the suspension: “Important notice from the Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21st September 2023 [Thursday], Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice.”
An Indian official confirmed the suspension but refrained from providing further comments, stating, “The language is clear and it says what it is intended to say.” Notably, this marks the first time India has suspended visas since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The suspension of visa services follows India’s advisory issued on Wednesday, urging its citizens in Canada to exercise utmost caution due to a rise in anti-India activities and “politically-condoned hate crimes.” Indian students, in particular, have been advised to exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was assassinated in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia. He was a prominent figure associated with the secessionist organization Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) in the province. SFJ has accused India of being behind the assassination.
In response to perceived threats, Canada’s foreign ministry revealed that some of its diplomats had received threats on social media platforms. Consequently, “Global Affairs Canada [the foreign ministry] 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. All of our locations are staffed by diplomats and locally engaged staff to ensure business and operational continuity.”
Canada has requested additional security measures for its missions, including the high commission in New Delhi and consulates in Mumbai, Chandigarh, and Bengaluru. The ministry invoked the Vienna Convention to safeguard diplomats and diplomatic premises, emphasizing the expectation that India would provide security for their accredited diplomats and consular officers, mirroring the arrangements in place for Indian diplomats in Canada.
Security measures have also been enhanced at India’s missions in Canada following the release of provocative posters by SFJ in July, followed by threats to “shut down Indian missions” on September 25, describing them as “terror houses.”
SFJ, banned in India in 2019 due to its pro-Khalistan activities, has issued threats to Hindus of Indian origin and called for their departure from Canada, alleging support for their country of origin and promoting violence by celebrating Nijjar’s assassination.
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Source: Hindustan Times