In a recent development, India has resumed visa services for Canadian citizens in specific categories on October 25, following a suspension that lasted nearly a month. This suspension occurred in response to Canada’s allegations of Indian involvement in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Additionally, this decision came a week after 41 Canadian diplomats departed India, complying with New Delhi’s demand. The Indian High Commission in Canada has officially announced the acceptance of visa applications for entry, business, medical, and conference purposes starting from Thursday.
It is noteworthy that while tourist visas and e-visas remain on hold, applications from Canadians falling within these specified categories will also be accepted at Indian missions in other countries, a service that had been previously suspended on September 21.
In response to a comprehensive assessment of the security situation, which also takes into consideration recent Canadian measures in this regard, the Indian High Commission in Ottawa issued a press release announcing the resumption of visa services for specific categories.
The press release further stated that the mission would continue to address emergency situations and any further decisions would be made based on an ongoing evaluation of the situation. This indicates that a decision regarding the resumption of tourist visas and e-visas, which are the most common methods for visitors to apply, is still pending.
The Indian High Commission statement said, “After a considered review of the security situation that takes into account some of the recent Canadian measures in this regard, it has been decided to resume visa services. Emergency services will continue to be handled by the Indian High Commission and the consulates in Toronto and Vancouver”.
The suspension of visa services has had a significant impact on numerous Canadians who were looking to travel to India. This includes individuals with family ties in India who were hoping to return for the festive season, as well as those with medical conditions requiring treatment in India.
In the wake of the expulsion of its diplomats from the High Commission in Delhi, Canada had also temporarily halted “in-person” visa services at its consulates in other cities. It remains uncertain whether these services will be resumed following India’s decision to reinstate visas.
On October 22, India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, had indicated that visas for Canadians would be reinstated “very soon.” This move came amid India’s concerns about the safety of its diplomats, given recent threats from separatist Khalistani groups. Jaishankar referred to this period as a “difficult phase” in bilateral relations.
Although officials from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) did not provide specific reasons for the reversal of their decision, it is understood that heightened concerns prompted India’s action. Notably, posters and videos released by these groups directly mentioned diplomats at the Indian High Commission and Consulates in Toronto and Vancouver. In response, the Canadian government increased security measures around these missions and for the diplomats involved.
The diplomatic dispute between India and Canada became publicly known following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement to his Parliament on September 18. Trudeau asserted that there were “credible allegations” implicating Indian government agents in the killing of Nijjar in Surrey in June this year, a claim vehemently denied by India.
In retaliation, India suspended visas for Canadians and issued a demand for 41 Canadian diplomats stationed in Delhi, constituting about two-thirds of the mission’s strength, to depart India. Failure to comply would result in the revocation of their diplomatic immunity, a measure taken by India to maintain “parity” with Indian missions.
Canada’s move was prompted by New Delhi’s warning that it would remove their diplomatic immunity, a development Canadian officials labelled as a breach of the Geneva Convention.
Furthermore, the Indian government rejected any suggestion that it violated international law by requesting Canada to recall diplomats. India maintained that the request aimed to ensure that both nations had approximately equal numbers of diplomats stationed in each other’s countries.