Video Producers: Mayank Chawla, Shohini Bose
Video Editors: Abhishek Sharma, Purnendu Pritam
Amid heightened tensions between the two countries, Indian Visa services in Canada were suspended till further notice on Thursday, 21 September, the BLS India Visa Application Centre said quoting an "Important notice from Indian Mission."
"Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice. Please keep checking BLS website for further updates," the India Visa Application Center in Canada said. BLS subsequently removed and reposted the suspension of visa services notice.
MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, "You are aware of the security threats being faced by our High Commission and Consulates in Canada. This has disrupted their normal functioning. Accordingly, our High Commission and Consulates are temporarily unable to process visa applications."
Meanwhile, the Canadian High Commission in India said that all of Canada's missions in India remain functional
"In light of the current environment where tensions have heightened, we are taking action to ensure the safety of our diplomats. With some diplomats having received threats on various social media platforms, 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."Canadian High Commission in India
The suspension comes after tensions between the two countries heightened after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday alleged the involvement of Indian government officials in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, alleged to be involved in separatist activities.
It also comes a day after the Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued an advisory on Wednesday asking Indians in Canada to "exercise utmost caution" due to "growing anti-India activities" and “politically-condoned hate crimes”.
Highlights from MEA Press Conference
"We've informed the Government of Canada that there should be parity in strength in our mutual diplomatic presence. Their number is very much higher than ours in Canada. I assume there will be a reduction from the Canadian side."
"Yes, I do think there is a degree of prejudice here. They have made allegations and taken action on them. To us, it seems that these allegations by government of Canada are primarily politically driven."
"You are aware of the security threats being faced by our High Commission and Consulates in Canada. This has disrupted their normal functioning. Accordingly, our High Commission and Consulates are temporarily unable to process visa applications. We will be reviewing the situation on a regular basis..."
"The issue is not about travel to India. Those who have valid visas, OCIs are free to travel to India. The issue is the incitement of violence, inaction by Canadian authorities and the creation of an environment that disrupts the functioning of our consulates which is what is making us stop temporarily the issuance of visa services. We will review this situation on a regular basis."
"We are willing to look at any specific information that is provided to us, but so far we have received no specific information from Canada. From our side, specific evidence about criminal activities by individuals based on the Canadian soil has been shared with Canada but not acted upon."
"We have always believed that it is the host government's responsibility to provide security. Some places we have our own security posture also. But, I don't want to discuss security measures in public. That's not an appropriate situation."
"If you're talking about reputational issues and reputational damage, if there's any country that needs to look at this, I think it is Canada and its growing reputation as a place, as a safe haven for terrorists, for extremists, and for organized crime. And I think that's a country that needs to worry about its international reputation."
"We take our obligations very seriously. We will be certainly providing all security to foreign diplomats in India. We also expect Canadian authorities to show similar sensitivity to our diplomats in Canada"
"Safe haven is being provided in Canada, we want the Canadian govt to not do so and take action against those who have terrorism charges or send them here to face justice...We've sought either extradition request or assistance related to that, at least more than 20-25 individuals we've requested over the years but the response has not been helpful at all."
On Monday, Trudeau said that Canadian security agencies had "credible" evidence that "agents of the Indian government" had assassinated Nijjar, who was a Canadian citizen.
"Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty. It is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open, and democratic societies conduct themselves," Trudeau said in parliament.
Subsequently, India "completely rejected" the claims and went ahead to publicly declare its concerns at "Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
But that is not all. Following Trudeau's comments, Canada expelled 1997 Punjab cadre IPS Pawan Kumar Rai, who was posted at the Indian mission in Ottawa. In return, India expelled Canadian diplomat and intelligence officer Olivier Sylvestre for interference... in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities".
The two countries then each expelled a senior official; Ottawa ordered a senior official of the Research and Analysis Wing to leave the country and India, on Tuesday, expelled a top Canadian diplomat for "interference" in India's "internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities".