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Canada drastically reduces number of student permits to Indians – Reuters

Relations between New Delhi and Ottawa have soured following the murder of a Sikh activist

The number of student permits issued by Canada to Indians has decreased significantly since September, Reuters reported on Tuesday. This comes amid a diplomatic row between the countries over the assassination of a Sikh activist in Vancouver.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau linked the murder to the Indian government. New Delhi dismissed the allegations, calling them “absurd.”

According to the Reuters report, the number of student permits issued to Indians in the fourth quarter of last year dropped by 86%, from 108,940 in the previous quarter to just 14,910. The decline was recorded after New Delhi expelled 41 Canadian diplomats who could have processed the student applications, the report says. Additionally, fewer students are said to have applied due to uncertainties amid the diplomatic spat.

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The row broke out in September last year after Trudeau alleged that India played a role in the assassination of pro-Khalistan activist Hardeep Nijjar in a suburb near Vancouver last June. The Khalistan movement, which is seen as a grave security threat by India, seeks the creation of a separate homeland for the minority Sikh community to be carved out of the country.

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As relations between New Delhi and Ottawa turned frosty, each side expelled a diplomat. India also temporarily suspended the issuing of visas to Canadians and later expelled 41 Canadian diplomats posted in New Delhi. At the time, Ottawa warned that the “mass expulsion” would impact the operations of its diplomatic mission in the country. India later resumed the issuing of entry, business, medical, and conference visas, as well as e-visas for Canadian citizens.

Over the past few years, Indians have emerged as the largest group of international students in Canada. In 2022, over 41% of all student permits were issued to Indian citizens, according to Reuters. In 2023, the Canadian government estimated that 900,000 international students would study in Canada that year, and 40% of those – or around 360,000 – would be Indians.

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International students pour around $16 billion into Canadian institutions each year, with students from the Indian state of Punjab accounting for around half of that, Sikh Vox, a Sikh diaspora website, reported last year.

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Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller, speaking to Reuters, said the dip in the numbers is unlikely to rebound soon, as the ongoing row has “halved” Canada’s ability to “process a lot of applications from India.” The future of Indian-Canadian relations remains uncertain as Ottawa continues its investigation into the activist’s murder.

“I can’t tell you about how the diplomatic relationship will evolve, particularly if police were to lay charges,” Miller was quoted as saying.

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Meanwhile, Canada is seeking to reduce the number of students entering the country amid a shortage of housing. It is a popular destination for international students as it is relatively easy to receive work permits for the country.

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