• | 1:46 pm

India suspends visa services for Canadians amid rising diplomatic tensions

Visa consultancy service provider BLS International said the suspension was due to ‘operational reasons’

India suspends visa services for Canadians amid rising diplomatic tensions

India on Thursday suspended visa services for Canadian citizens as diplomatic tensions escalated further between New Delhi and Ottawa. Visa consultancy service provider BLS International said the suspension, effective from 21 September 2023, will remain in effect until further notice.

In an official notice posted on its website, BLS International stated, “Important notice from Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice. Please keep checking the BLS website for further updates.”

There is no official statement from the Indian mission in Canada or the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi in this regard. 

The development follows the recent diplomatic standoff between India and Canada over the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a pro-Khalistan Sikh activist in British Columbia. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday said in parliament that security agencies have been “actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar.” 

After Trudeau’s remarks, Canadian foreign minister Melanie Joly told reporters that she had ordered the expulsion of “a senior Indian diplomat,” believed to be the head of the Indian security agency, Research and Analysis Wing, in Canada.  

India has vehemently rejected these allegations, deeming them “absurd” and “motivated”.

“Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The inaction of the Canadian government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern,” the ministry of external affairs said, adding that it rejects any attempts to connect the government of India to such developments. 

Soon after, the ministry expelled a Canadian diplomat and asked them to leave India within the next five days.

“The decision reflects the government of India’s growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities,” an MEA statement said. 

Tensions rose further on Wednesday after India issued an advisory to its citizens in Canada, urging “utmost caution” in “view of growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence.”

“Recently, threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda. Indian nationals are therefore advised to avoid traveling to regions and potential venues in Canada that have seen such incidents,” the travel advisory issued by the ministry said. 

“Given the deteriorating security environment in Canada, Indian students in particular are advised to exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant,” it added.

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