India temporarily suspends visa services for Canadians amid rising diplomatic tensions

The Indian Mission in Ottawa has suspended Indian visa services till further notice due to "operational reasons."

Published: 21st September 2023 12:40 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st September 2023 08:24 PM   |  A+A-

The High Commission of India is seen in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Photo | PTI)

By Online Desk

India has suspended its visa services in Canada, "until further notice", amid the escalating tensions between both countries. According to BLS International — a private agency hired for initial scrutiny of visa applications of Canadians — Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice, due to "operational reasons, with effect from September 21, 2023."

"Our diplomatic staff in the High Commission and Consulates in Canada are working under threats and in that situation it would not be viable to continue issuing visas. Therefore we have decided not to provide visa services for the time being. Canadian citizens from third countries too cannot apply for visas," said Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi.

As per BLS International, interested visa applicants have been advised to keep checking the BLS website for further updates on the issue.

"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 the BLS website for further updates," the ticker on the website read.

A screengrab from the BLS International website

The move comes amid the escalating diplomatic row that erupted following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations of a "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of a Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June. 

Nijjar, who was a designated terrorist in India, was gunned down outside a Gurdwara, in a parking area in Canada's Surrey, British Columbia on June 18.

This comes after the Canadian government had rejected a travel advisory issued by India about security risks in Canada, saying it is one of the safest countries in the world, and called for calm amid the escalating diplomatic row between the two nations.

India 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 threatened to snowball into a major confrontation. Indian students in Canada have been particularly advised to exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant.

Trudeau during a debate in the Canadian Parliament, claimed his country's national security officials had reasons to believe that "agents of the Indian government" carried out the killing of the Canadian citizen, who also served as the president of Surrey's Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara.

The allegations made by the Canadian Prime Minister and foreign minister were rejected by the Ministry of External Affairs in India which dubbed the statements as "absurd" and "motivated." 

The India-Canada ties have been reeling under some strain for the last few months in view of increasing activities of the pro-Khalistani elements in the North American country. India believes the Trudeau government is not addressing its genuine concerns.

(With additional inputs from PTI)

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