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India suspends visas for Canadians over rising tensions

India has suspended visa services to Canadians over rising tensions between the two countries. (File Photo of Indian high commission in Canada)

India has suspended visa operations with Canada for an indefinite period amidst an escalating diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

The development came on Thursday as India said the move was due to “security threats” against its diplomatic staff.

Tensions between the two countries have increased following Canada’s allegation against India for the killing of a Canadian Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June.

Meanwhile, the High Commission of Canada said that its offices and those of all consulates in India are open.

A notice on the Canada portal of an Indian visa outsourcing service provider said that visa services will remain suspended from September 21.

The notice says, “Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice.”

Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that the normal functioning of the Indian High Commission and consulates in Canada was affected by “security threats” faced by the staff.

“Therefore, the high commission is unable to temporarily process visa applications. We will be reviewing the situation on a regular basis,” Bagchi added.

The suspension also includes e-visas, the spokesperson said. 

Canadians from third countries will also not be able to apply for Indian visas.

The suspension of visas comes a day after India's foreign ministry said it was concerned for the safety of its citizens in Canada because of "politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in New Delhi during the G20 Summit earlier this month. (Photo by AP)

Downsize diplomatic presence in India

India on Thursday asked Canada to downsize its diplomatic presence in the country following Ottawa’s allegations against New Delhi over the killing of Sikh separatist activist, Hardeep Singh Najjar in Canada.

"We have informed the Canadian government that there should be parity," Indian foreign ministry spokesperson, Bagchi told reporters.

"Their numbers here are very much higher than ours in Canada... I assume there will be a reduction."

Alleging Canada of interfering in India’s domestic affairs, the spokesperson added, "Canadian diplomatic interference in our internal affairs is a factor."

Meanwhile, Canada's High Commission said it would "adjust" diplomat numbers in India after "threats on various social media" against their staff.

"In light of the current environment where tensions have heightened, we are taking action to ensure the safety of our diplomats," Canada's mission stated.

"As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India."

On Monday, Ottawa expelled an Indian diplomat alleging that the diplomat was the head of India's foreign intelligence service in Canada, prompting New Delhi to order a senior Canadian diplomat to leave.

On June 18, Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in the Canadian state of British Columbia. The Canadian Sikh activist was designated as a terrorist under India's Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

He was charged with plotting a violent attack in India and was also booked in a case related to the killing of a priest in India’s Punjab in January 2021.

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the Parliament that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the assassination of Nijjar. However, the Indian government has vehemently denied such allegations.


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