In a recent and dramatic turn of events, India has taken the unprecedented step of suspending visa services indefinitely for Canadian nationals. This decision comes amidst a backdrop of escalated tensions between the two countries, triggered by a series of allegations and threats. The situation, which involves the tragic killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar and its aftermath, has led to a diplomatic row, tit-for-tat expulsions of senior diplomats, and heightened concerns about the safety of citizens and diplomats. In this blog post, we will delve into the details surrounding this development, its implications, and what it means for those involved.
Suspension of Visa Services
New Delhi’s decision to suspend visa services for Canadians is a significant move, one that has been carried out without a formal announcement from the Indian government. Instead, it was conveyed via BLS International, the organization responsible for managing visa application centers in Canada. The message, posted on its Canadian website, stated: “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.”
This suspension is notable as it marks the first time India has taken such a step since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s Allegations
At the heart of these escalating tensions lies Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations regarding Indian involvement in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. This accusation has had far-reaching consequences, leading to heightened diplomatic tensions and retaliatory actions between India and Canada. It is crucial to understand the gravity of these allegations, as they have become a central point of contention.
Lack of Formal Announcement
The absence of a formal announcement from the Indian government has left many observers puzzled. Despite this, an Indian official has confirmed the suspension of visa services, offering no further comment beyond asserting that “The language is clear and it says what it is intended to say.” This lack of clarity adds an element of mystery to the situation.
Travel Advisory for Indian Citizens in Canada
In response to growing anti-India activities and what is termed “politically-condoned hate crimes,” the Indian government issued a travel advisory on September 20, 2023. This advisory calls on Indian citizens in Canada to exercise the utmost caution. Notably, Indian students have been singled out for specific cautionary advice, being urged to remain vigilant and exercise extreme caution in their daily lives.
The advisory serves as a precautionary measure, aimed at safeguarding the well-being and security of Indian nationals in Canada amidst the escalating tensions. It emphasizes the importance of staying informed about local developments and adhering to all Canadian laws and regulations.
Safety of Diplomats
Beyond the travel advisory, another concerning aspect of this situation is the safety of diplomats. Diplomats from both India and Canada have faced threats on social media platforms, prompting the Canadian government to take proactive measures. Global Affairs Canada, the Canadian foreign ministry, is assessing the safety of its staff in India and has decided to temporarily adjust staff presence as a precautionary measure. The goal is to ensure the safety and security of their diplomats, who are integral to business and operational continuity.
Canada has also sought additional security measures around its missions in India, including the high commission in New Delhi and consulates in Mumbai, Chandigarh, and Bengaluru. The reference to the Vienna Convention highlights the importance of safeguarding diplomats and diplomatic premises.
Security Measures in Canada
In a tit-for-tat response, India has sought additional security measures for its missions in Canada as well. This request follows threats from the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) group, which released “Kill India” posters in July and later blamed New Delhi for Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing on June 18. As a result, security has been enhanced at India’s missions in Canada, particularly for senior diplomats.
India has requested additional security at its high commission in Ottawa and consulates in Toronto and Vancouver, given the threats issued by SFJ to “shut down Indian missions” on September 25, describing them as “terror houses.”
The suspension of visa services for Canadian nationals by India, amid the backdrop of heightened tensions, represents a significant and complex international issue. The allegations surrounding the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar have ignited a diplomatic dispute with far-reaching consequences.
For Indian students, visitors, and diplomats in Canada, these developments underscore the importance of vigilance and adherence to local laws and regulations. Staying informed about the evolving situation and following any travel advisories issued by the Indian government are crucial steps to ensure safety and security during these challenging times.
As the situation continues to evolve, it is imperative for all parties involved to prioritize diplomatic solutions and the well-being of their citizens and diplomats. We will closely monitor developments and provide updates as they unfold in this ongoing story.