India suspends Canadian visa services amid diplomatic tension

This is the first time India has suspended visas since the COVID-19 pandemic.

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India has suspended visa services for Canadian nationals indefinitely after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of Indian involvement in the assassination of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the Hindustan Times reported.

This is the first time India has suspended visas since the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the report, the suspension of visa services was confirmed by BLS International, the agency responsible for managing visa application centers in Canada. 

“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,” BLS International stated.

An Indian official confirmed the suspension but refused to comment further: “The language is clear and it says what it is intended to say.” 

The visa service suspension came in the wake of India’s advisory issued on Wednesday, urging Indian citizens residing in Canada to exercise maximum caution due to an uptick in anti-India activities and what India describes as “politically-sanctioned hate crimes.”

Specifically, Indian students have been strongly advised to exercise extreme caution and maintain a high level of vigilance.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent figure in the secessionist organization Sikhs for Justice, was assassinated in Surrey, British Columbia, where he presided over the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara. 

SFJ has accused India of orchestrating the assassination, a claim vehemently denied by Indian authorities.

A spokesperson for Canada’s foreign ministry stated, “Global Affairs Canada 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.”

Canada has also requested increased security measures for its missions in India, including the high commission in New Delhi and consulates in Mumbai, Chandigarh, and Bengaluru. 

Citing the Vienna Convention for safeguarding diplomats and diplomatic premises, Canada expects India to ensure the security of its accredited diplomats and consular officers in India, mirroring the protection offered to Indian officials in Canada.

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