After a month-long diplomatic row with Canada that has led to a halt of all visa services, the government of India announced the resumption of some services at the High Commission and at the consulates in Vancouver and Toronto from today onwards.
The announcement comes a day after India’s envoy to Canada, Sanjay Kumar Verma, said in an interview 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 said. “As long as the core reasons are not dealt with, security threat will continue to persist.”
The diplomatic feud between Canada and India 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.
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.
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.”
According to Indian High Commission in Ottawa, current decision to partially resume visa services for Canadian residents was made after “a considered review of the security situation that takes into account some recent Canadian measures in this regard.”
The High Commission’s satement was apparently referring to earlier claims that Indian diplomatic staff were threatened.
So far, issuance of only four categories of visas – entry, medical, business and conference, has been resumed. There are 14 categories of Indian visas normally available to Canadian nationals.