India suspended on Thursday the issuing of visas in Canada, the service provider said, amid a diplomatic row sparked by Ottowa’s accusation New Delhi was involved in the killing of a Sikh separatist near Vancouver.
“Important notice from Indian mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from September 21, 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” BLS International posted on their website on Thursday.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has demanded India treat with “utmost seriousness” allegations that Indian agents played a role in the June murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
The fallout prompted tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and a forceful denial from India, which said any suggestion it played a role in Nijjar’s killing was “absurd”.
The suspension of visas comes a day after India’s foreign ministry said it was concerned for the safety of its citizens in Canada because of “politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence”.
“Threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda,” a ministry statement said on Wednesday.
Also, read this
“Indian nationals are therefore advised to avoid travelling to regions and potential venues in Canada that have seen such incidents.”
The advisory did not name specific cities or locations for Indians to avoid.
Nijjar was shot dead by two masked assailants outside the Sikh temple he presided over in Surrey, an outer suburb of Vancouver.
An activist for the creation of a Sikh state known as Khalistan, Nijjar was wanted by Indian authorities for alleged terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder.
He had denied those charges, according to the World Sikh Organisation of Canada, a nonprofit organisation that says it defends the interests of Canadian Sikhs.
The Indian government accuses Ottawa of turning a blind eye to the activities of radical Sikh nationalists who advocate the creation of an independent Sikh state to be carved out of northern India.
Canada High Commission says to ‘adjust’ India staff presence
Separately, Canada’s High Commission said it would “adjust” the number of its diplomats in India after threats on social media against staff, as the diplomatic row with New Delhi escalates.
“In light of the current environment where tensions have heightened, we are taking action to ensure the safety of our diplomats,” Canada’s mission said in a statement.
“With some diplomats having received threats on various social media platforms, Global Affairs Canada is assessing its staff complement in India,” it added.
“As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India.”