For representational purposes
For representational purposes

Canada welcomes India's decision to resume some visa services, says "a good sign"

"Our feeling is that a suspension should never have happened in the first place," Immigration Minister Marc Miller was quoted as saying by CTV News.

TORONTO: Canada has welcomed India's decision to resume some visa services in the country from Thursday, saying the move was a "good sign" after "an anxious time" for many Canadians, amid a diplomatic row over the killing of a Sikh separatist.

India's high commission in Canada said on Wednesday that the country's officials will resume processing some types of visa applications for Canadians applying from across the country as well as abroad.

The decision came a month after New Delhi suspended the services in Canada and for Canadian citizens worldwide as tensions flared between the two nations last month following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations of the "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 in British Columbia.

India had designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020.

India has rejected Trudeau's allegations as "absurd" and "motivated".

On Wednesday afternoon, Immigration Minister Marc Miller called India's move "a good sign" after "an anxious time" for his many Canadians.

"Our feeling is that a suspension should never have happened in the first place," he was quoted as saying by CTV News.

He said the "really concerning diplomatic situation with India has created a lot of fear in a lot of communities."

Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan, who is also a Sikh, said the resumption of visa processing is good news, but wouldn't speculate on what message New Delhi is trying to send.

"It's good to see that they have resumed that. It would have been nice (if) they didn't take it in the first place," Sajjan told reporters.

He said it was important that Indians and Canadians can go back and forth when it comes to events like weddings and funerals.

He added that Ottawa is still seeking India's help as police investigate the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

India will resume services for entry visas, business visas, medical visas and conference visas.

Marilyne Guevremont, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada (GAC) - the department that manages the country's diplomatic and consular relations, told CBC News that GAC is aware of the Indian government's "decision to resume certain categories of visa processing for Canadians."

"Canada and India share important people-to-people ties and India's resumption of visa services will make it easier for families and businesses to travel between our countries," Guevremont.

In a statement, the Canada-India Business Council said it was "a promising development" for trade relations.

"It is also a positive sign that both governments have expressed their support for bilateral business and investments amidst these unusual times," wrote council head Victor Thomas.

The development came days after Canada pulled out 41 of its diplomats from India. Before Trudeau's announcement dramatically heightened tensions between Canada and India, New Delhi had publicly denounced protests by Sikh separatist groups outside its diplomatic missions in Canada, as well as posters that appeared to offer cash rewards in exchange for the home addresses of Indian diplomats.

India formally called on Canada to better uphold its duty to protect foreign diplomats.

India had also asked Canada to come down hard on terrorists and anti-India elements operating from its soil and suspended visa services for Canadians.

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The New Indian Express