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India Halts Visa For Canadians As Diplomatic Crisis Escalates

Tawqeer Hussain

New Delhi, September 22: Diplomatic relations between India and Canada plunged into uncertainty as India suspended all types of visas for Canadian Nationals, a day after it issued a cautionary advisory to its citizens residing in Canada.

“The security threats being faced by our High Commission and Consulates in Canada have affected their normal functioning. Accordingly, our High Commission and Consulates are temporarily unable to process visa applications. We will be reviewing the situation on a regular basis,” says Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

The suspension affects all types of visas for Canadians, Mr Bagchi clarified.

This move came just two days after the Canadian government publicly accused India of involvement in the killing of its citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a known Khalistan extremist. The allegations were swiftly followed by reciprocal diplomatic expulsions, further straining the bilateral relationship.

“In view of growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada, all Indian nationals there and those contemplating travel are urged to exercise utmost caution,” said an advisory issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

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

The diplomatic crisis broke after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed India for the killing of its citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June, an allegation that India rejected and called ‘absurd and motivated’.

“Over the past number of weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, on Canadian Soil,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said publicly in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.

Soon after the Canadian Prime Minister’s statement, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly announced the expulsion of India’s senior diplomat in Canada. She identified the Indian diplomat as head of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) in Canada. R&AW is India’s foreign intelligence Agency.

In retaliation, India summoned the High Commissioner of Canada in New Delhi and announced the suspension of its head of intelligence service. He is directed to leave the country within five days.

On Thursday the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi said that it would adjust the staff presence in India.

“We have informed the Govt of Canada that there should be parity in strength in our mutual diplomatic presence. Their number is very much higher than ours in Canada… I assume there will be a reduction from the Canadian side,” Mr Bagchi said, adding that Canada needs to worry about its international reputation as “it is growing its reputation as a safe haven for terrorists, for extremists, and for organized crime”.

Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar?

Born in the Northern Indian state of Punjab, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,46, moved to Canada in 1997.

He was the leader of Khalistan Tiger Force, a Sikh separatist faction advocating for the establishment of Khalistan, a homeland for the Sikh religious minority in the Punjab region of India.

India designated him a terrorist in 2020. Despite a red-corner notice against him, Canada granted him citizenship. Mr. Nijjar was fatally shot while in his vehicle outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, located in the Canadian province of British Columbia, in June.

Canadian PM Calls India to Join the Investigation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau once again reiterated its accusations blaming India for the killings of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil. While speaking to the media on the sidelines of the United National General Assembly session, PM Trudeau said that his country has credible reasons to believe that the Indian Govt is involved in the killing.

“There are credible reasons to believe that agents of the Govt of India were involved in the killing of a Canadian, on Canadian soil, which is something of utmost and foundational importance in the country of rule of law, in a world where international rules-based order matters,” he said.

“We have an independent justice system and robust processes that will follow their course and we call upon the Govt of India to engage with us to move forward on getting to the truth of this matter”, says Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

He however said that Canada isn’t looking for any provocation or cause problems.

“India is a country of growing importance and a country that we need to continue to work with not just in a region but around the world and we are not looking to provoke or cause problems but we are unequivocal about the importance of the rule of law and unequivocal about of the importance of protecting Canadians and standing up for values” he added.

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