PM Narendra Modi (R) with Canada PM Justin Trudeau (Photo | PTI)
PM Narendra Modi (R) with Canada PM Justin Trudeau (Photo | PTI)

India-Canada visa row needs to be resolved peacefully

While Canada did not stop issuing visas to Indian nationals, it temporarily suspended visa and in-person consular services, making them available exclusively at the Canadian High Commission in Delhi

India’s decision to partially resume visa services for Canadians is a harbinger of hope amid the simmering standoff between the two otherwise-friendly nations. A month ago, the allegation by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of the involvement of “agents of the Indian government” in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force, in Canada, had brought the two countries to the verge of unprecedented bilateral hostility. India was quick to suspend visa services for Canadian citizens, and travel between the two countries has been an immediate casualty. Canadian tourists, business travellers, and even some former Indian citizens were at a loss. Some Canadian companies introduced restrictions on travel to India for their local employees.

While Canada did not stop issuing visas to Indian nationals, it temporarily suspended visa and in-person consular services in three Indian cities, making them available exclusively at the Canadian High Commission in Delhi. Leisure travellers and pilgrims from Canada are still at the receiving end. Most Canadians without a visa are already unable to travel. Last year, there were 2.8 lakh tourist arrivals in India. Indian students in Canada, apart from Indian businessmen and traders, spent nearly a month with their fingers crossed as the diplomatic row escalated in September. Over 3 lakh Indians are pursuing higher education in Canada due to the better job opportunities and higher earning potential there.

Luckily, the diplomatic muddle has not spilled over to bilateral trade, which is nearly balanced at $8 billion annually. If the two countries further delay the restoration of their camaraderie, it may begin to show up. India counts on Canada for mineral fuels, oils, fertilisers, and lentils, but the export-import trade accounts for less than 1 percent of India’s total trade. Canadian shipments of masur dal constitute 95 percent of India’s lentil imports and are crucial amid fears of a fall in local pulse production. The long-pending India-Canada Free Trade Agreement is likely to be delayed further as the negotiations that gained momentum last year have been put on hold now.

While it is important for India to ensure security, a complete ban on visa services may not augur well for the country. Now that India has resumed issuing some visas such as entry visas, business visas, and medical visas, everyone hopes to see relations steadily back on track. The free movement of professionals is vital for facilitating trade and strengthening the economy.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com