Visa services for Canadians in India are set to resume on Thursday, following a month-long suspension starting on September 21. Although the decision was made despite ongoing challenges in conducting normal diplomatic functions, the High Commission in Canada announced the relaxation of visa services, covering entry, business, medical, and conference visas. Emergencies will continue to be addressed separately.
Four of eight visa categories were included, omitting tourist, employment, student, and film categories. The decision, based on a security review that considered recent Canadian measures, comes after the temporary suspension due to safety and security concerns.
Indian High Commissioner to Ottawa, Sanjay Kumar Verma, acknowledged the security threats posed by anti-India activities in Canada, primarily from minor factions.
While improvements in the security environment could lead to a relaxation of the visa regime for Canadian citizens, the ongoing issue of pro-Khalistan elements targeting Indian diplomats remains challenging.
Recent incidents, including car rallies organized by pro-Khalistan groups with posters labeling Indian officials as “Enemies of Canada,” highlight the persistent security threats. Despite Canada’s efforts to enhance security measures for Indian diplomats, Verma emphasized that the situation is not conducive to the normal functioning of diplomatic and consular activities.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar expressed the need for progress in ensuring the safety of Indian citizens and diplomats in Canada before considering a full resumption of visa services. The challenge lies in addressing the core issues fueling security threats, particularly from elements involved in anti-India activities.
Despite Canada’s provision of personal security details and increased mission coverage, the overall security environment remains a concern for Indian officials stationed there.
Visa issuance was indefinitely halted on September 21, as indicated in a scrolling message on BLS International’s Canadian website, the organization managing visa application centers in Canada.
The message attributed the suspension to operational reasons and stated that Indian visa services would remain suspended until further notice.
The strain in bilateral relations intensified following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement in the House of Commons on September 18. Trudeau mentioned “credible allegations” of a potential connection between Indian agents and the killing of pro-Khalistan figure Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18.
In the immediate aftermath, both countries expelled one diplomat each. Subsequently, 41 Canadian diplomats were withdrawn from India last week after New Delhi asserted that they would lose diplomatic immunity if they extended their stay beyond Friday. Canada characterized this move as a “mass expulsion” of its diplomats, while India argued for “parity” in the number of diplomats.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the principal of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) in British Columbia, was fatally shot in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey. While India accused Nijjar of being a terrorist, no such allegations were formally tested in a Canadian court. To date, Canada has not presented evidence supporting New Delhi’s alleged involvement in the killing.