New Delhi: The Indian government on Thursday temporarily suspended visa services for Canadian nationals in light of heightened tensions between both countries.
Though a private agency hired by India to carry out initial scrutiny of visa applications of Canadians on Thursday put out a note on its website on the suspension of visa services, it withdrew the same hours later.
BLS International, which runs visa application centres in Canada, published on its website: "Important notice from the Indian Mission: Due to Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice."
Canada rejects travel advisory, calls for calm
Earlier, the Canadian government 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 over the killing of a Khalistani separatist leader in this country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations of "potential" involvement of Indian government agents in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June unleashed a diplomatic row with India rejecting the charges as "absurd" and "motivated" and kicking out a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move to Ottawa's expulsion of an Indian official.
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 over the killing of a Khalistani separatist leader threatened to snowball into a major confrontation.
In a strongly-worded advisory, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi referred to "threats" targeting Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community that oppose the "anti-India agenda", and asked Indian nationals to avoid travelling to regions and potential venues in Canada which have seen such incidents.
Canada's Immigration Minister Marc Miller sought to reassure Indian nationals on Wednesday that it is safe to travel to the country even as a leader of the Sikh separatist movement banned in India has announced plans for rallies in Canadian cities on Monday that seek the closing of New Delhi's diplomatic missions here, The Globe and Mail newspaper reported.
"Look, I think everyone knows Canada is a safe country and given the events of the last two or three days and the seriousness of the allegations, it's important for everyone to stay calm," The Canadian Press quoted Miller as saying.
Canada by any standard is one of the safest if not the safest countries in the world that are governed by the rule of law. So, I think people should read that statement for what it is, Miller said.
He acknowledged that Canadian allegations of the "potential" involvement of Indian government agents in the killing of a Khalistani separatist have heightened tensions with the Indian government.
Given what the Prime Minister has said quite clearly to Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, the allegations are very serious, and these are discussions that have to continue with India, he said.
At the same time, emotions are running high, and we've asked everyone just to stay calm given the seriousness of the allegations," he added.