The decision was taken after a review of the security situation in Canada, India’s High Commission in Ottawa has said
India announced a partial resumption of visa services for Canadians on Wednesday, after a month-long halt sparked by a feud with Ottawa, and claims that Indian diplomatic staff were threatened.
The decision was taken “after a considered review of the security situation that takes into account some recent Canadian measures in this regard,” the Indian high commission in Ottawa stated.
Only four out of the 14 categories of visas that India issues to Canadian nationals – namely entry visas, medical, business and conference – have been resumed so far. Services will resume at the High Commission and at the consulates in Vancouver and Toronto from Thursday onwards.
The announcement comes a day after India’s envoy to Canada, Sanjay Kumar Verma, said in an interview with the Hindustan Times said that the situation was “still not ideal to conduct normal diplomatic and consular functions.” The high commissioner cited the “lingering problem of pro-Khalistan elements continuing to target India’s senior most diplomats” as a reason for the suspension of visas to Canadians back in September.
“Security threats per se originate from anti-India activities of inimical elements in Canada, who are very small in number,” Varma was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “As long as the core reasons are not dealt with, security threat will continue to persist.”
Varma, however, had said that India would consider “some relaxation” in the existing rules if there was an “improvement in the security environment” of Indian diplomats and consular officials stationed in the country.
Varma echoed the sentiments of India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, who recently stated that the decision to discontinue visas was made due to “concerns” regarding the safety of Indian diplomats in Canada.
The feud erupted last month when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused New Delhi of “potential” involvement in the killing of Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
While Trudeau and his government have not provided hard evidence to back up the claims, Canada’s allies in the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing alliance (the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand) have expressed “deep concern” over the situation, while backing Ottawa to continue its investigation. India has dismissed the allegations as “absurd.”
Nijjar, a prominent leader of the pro-Khalistan movement, which seeks to carve out a separate state from India’s Punjab region, was designated as a “terrorist” by the government in 2020. However, he continued to live freely in Canada. New Delhi, which has for many years urged Ottawa to cooperate in its crackdown against separatist elements operating on Canadian soil, has expressed its frustration with the country, calling it a “safe haven” for terrorists.
Trudeau’s allegation sparked an outcry in Canada, which is home to almost 800,000 Sikhs. On September 25, Sikh groups operating in the country staged protests outside India’s diplomatic missions. In Toronto, dozens of protesters were seen burning the Indian flag and striking a cardboard cut-out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a shoe. Some of the protesters in Toronto and Ottawa called for Varma’s expulsion from Canada.
Earlier this year, in the immediate aftermath of Nijjar’s killing, the US-based group ‘Sikhs for Justice’ called on supporters in Canada to “besiege” Indian diplomatic missions, offering cash rewards for providing the home addresses of diplomats. This prompted New Delhi to formally call on Canada to uphold its duty to ensure the protection of diplomats posted in the country.
In the aftermath of Trudeau’s allegations against India, Canada expelled several diplomats, while India froze its visa services in Canada and asked Ottawa to withdraw dozens of diplomats posted in India to ensure “parity in strength and rank.” Ottawa now has 21 diplomats in India, the same number that New Delhi has in Canada.
New Zealand, one of Canada’s allies in the ‘Five Eyes,’ reacted on Wednesday to New Delhi’s move against Canadian diplomats, saying it was “concerned” by India’s demand. Similar statements were made previously by the US and UK. “Now seems the time for more diplomacy, not less,” its statement read. “We expect all states to uphold their obligations under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” it added.
October 26, 2023 at 01:07PM