India Stops Issuing Visas to Canadians as the Diplomatic Dispute Intensifies

 As a result of threats, the High Commission of Canada changes the number of employees at its consulates in India.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

While some Canadian exporters are concerned about the economic repercussions of Justin Trudeau's claim that the Indian government was responsible for the killing of a Sikh activist in British Columbia, India is warning its citizens to use caution when visiting Canada.

After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that India may have been involved in the murder of a Canadian Sikh leader, the visa processing centre for India in Canada suspended operations on Thursday, widening the gulf between the two nations.

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

There were no more details provided. Visa applications for India, including those for entry, tourist, student, and job visas, are handled by BLS. The centre has physical locations in Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, among other cities.

According to the India Bureau of Immigration, 80,000 Canadian visitors visited India in 2021, ranking them as the fourth-largest group. Indians enjoy travelling to Canada, particularly as students. Nearly 300,000 Indians attended Canadian universities in 2022.

According to the High Commission of Canada, "some diplomats having received threats on various social media platforms." thus they are temporarily changing the staffing levels at their commission and consulate locations in India.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh activist for independence who was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18, had been wanted by India for years, and Trudeau stated to Parliament on Monday that there were "credible allegations" of Indian participation in the killing.

On Thursday, India referred to the Canadian investigation's charges as ludicrous and a ruse to divert attention from the fact that Nijjar and other sought individuals are in Canada.

Bagchi claimed that although it has demanded extradition for 20 to 25 people it considers to be criminals, Canada has not complied. It wasn't immediately apparent how long those requests would take.

Bagchi claimed that Canada has not offered any evidence to support its claim on the Nijjar killing.

At the time of his death, Nijjar was organising an unofficial Sikh diaspora referendum on independence from India. India had accused him of being a terrorist, which he had refuted.

The claim has led to retaliatory actions of criticism and denunciation. This week, the two nations expelled their diplomats, and on Wednesday, India updated its travel warning, advising its citizens travelling to Canada, especially those studying there, to exercise caution due to "growing anti-India activities and politically condoned hate-crimes."

Khalistan demands originated as an insurgency in Punjab state, India, in the 1970s, which was put down by a government crackdown that resulted in thousands of deaths. The movement still retains adherents in Punjab, where Sikhs are the majority, as well as among the sizeable Sikh diaspora abroad, despite having lost most of its political power in the intervening years.

The National Investigation Agency of India announced on Wednesday that it has stepped up its efforts to root out Sikh rebels operating there. For information that results in the capture of five rebels, one of whom is thought to be based in adjacent Pakistan, it offered prizes of up to 1 million rupees ($16,230 Cdn).

Pakistan dismisses India's accusations that it has supported insurgencies in Kashmir and Punjab.


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