Visa to Canadian nationals have been suspended indefinitely by the Indian government, following growing tension between the two countries over the killing of Canada-based pro-Khalistani supporter Hardeep Nijjar.
BLS International, the company responsible for managing visa application centres in Canada, notified, “Important notice from the Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from September 21, 2023 [Thursday], Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” read the statement.
Additionally, the company also emphasised that the suspension will not impact its revenue materially, as Canadian visa issuance business contributes less than 2 per cent of its total annual revenues.
An Indian official confirmed the suspension, “The language is clear and it says what it is intended to say.” This suspension marks the first time that India has suspended visa services since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As tensions continue to rise, India issued an advisory, urging Indian students and NRIs in Canada to exercise caution due to increasing anti-India activities and what it described as “politically-condoned hate crimes.” Indian students, in particular, have been advised to remain vigilant.
This decision of visa suspension comes as Ottawa announces a temporary adjustment of its staff presence in India, citing concerns over the safety of its diplomats following threats on social media platforms.
Canada’s foreign ministry spokesperson confirmed that some diplomats had received threats on social media platforms and stated, “…Global Affairs Canada [the foreign ministry] is assessing its staff complement in India. As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India. All of our locations are staffed by diplomats and locally engaged staff to ensure business and operational continuity.”
The catalyst for this escalation was the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia. Nijjar was a prominent figure in the secessionist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), which has accused India of orchestrating his killing.
The rift between the two countries was exacerbated when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged Indian involvement in the assassination of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. This accusation set off a diplomatic dispute, leading to the expulsion of senior diplomats from both nations earlier this week.