India Suspends Visa Services in Canada ‘Till Further Notice’ as Diplomatic Row Mounts
New Delhi: The stand-off with Canada further escalated on Thursday with India "suspended till further notice" its visa services in Canada.
The move came as the diplomatic row between the two countries intensified after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations of "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of a Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June.
On Thursday, another killing was reported in Canada’s Winnipeg city of an aide’of a Khalistani separatist. Sukhdool Singh from Punjab’s Moga was in the ‘wanted list’ of India, as he had many criminal cases against him. Reports suggested that he was likely killed in inter-gang rivalry.
Meanwhile, India suspension of visa services for Canadians in the wake of the ongoing row is sure to create ripples, especially in Punjab, from where lakhs of Indians have migrated to Canada, while their families are still settled in India.
According to news agency PTI, a private agency hired for initial scrutiny of visa applications of Canadians put out a note on its website that Indian visa services have been "suspended till further notice".
Meanwhile, a PTI report from Toronto said that the Canadian government had rejected a travel advisory issued by India about “security risk” in Canada, saying it was “one of the safest countries” in the world, and called for calm.
The escalation of the diplomatic row with Canada comes soon after the G20 Summit in New Delhi, which saw the presence of Trudeau. After glitches in his ai went back aircraft and delayed departure from India, the Canadian PM was able to leave India.
A few days later, Trudeau alleged in the House that as per intelligence inputs there was "potential" involvement of Indian government agents in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June.
This set the cat among the pigeons with India rejecting the charges as "absurd" and "motivated" and kicking out a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move to Ottawa's expulsion of an Indian official.
On Wednesday advised all its citizens living in Canada and those contemplating travelling there to exercise "utmost caution" in view of growing anti-India activities and "politically-condoned" hate crimes in the North American country, as the diplomatic row over the killing of a Khalistani separatist leader threatened to snowball into a major confrontation.
In a strongly-worded advisory, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi referred to "threats" targeting Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community that oppose the "anti-India agenda", and asked Indian nationals to avoid travelling to regions and potential venues in Canada which have seen such incidents.
Canada’s Immigration Minister Marc Miller sought to reassure Indian nationals on Wednesday that it is safe to travel to the country even as a leader of the Sikh separatist movement banned in India has announced plans for rallies in Canadian cities on Monday that seek the closing of New Delhi’s diplomatic missions here, The Globe and Mail newspaper reported.
“Canada by any standard is one of the safest if not the safest countries in the world that is governed by the rule of law. So, I think people should read that statement for what it is,” Miller said.
Acknowledging that Canadian allegations of the "potential" involvement of Indian government agents in the killing of a Khalistani separatist had heightened tensions with the Indian government, he sadi, “Given what the Prime Minister has said quite clearly to Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, the allegations are very serious, and these are discussions that have to continue with India,” he said.
Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Sean Fraser said that he would not comment on the specifics of the probe into Nijjar's death because he does not want to compromise any investigations.
He said Canadians should have faith in the security services' ability to investigate the death.
"We are a country that was built on migration. If you're not from an indigenous community, you came from somewhere else, and I can tell you right now the people I'm talking to here, they don't want to see divisions based on whether you are Sikh, Hindu or Muslim. They want to come together as Canadians and promote peaceful dialogue, even in the most difficult conversations," Fraser said.
(With inputs from PTI)
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