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Row Escalates As India Suspends Canadian Visas

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In response to the killing of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil, India has stopped issuing visas to Canadian citizens.

India stated that the temporary relocation was necessary due to “security threats” disrupting work at its Canadian missions.

Tensions rose this week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that India was responsible for the 18 June killing.

Mr. Trudeau, however, stated on Thursday that the allegation was not intended to provoke India.

India has reacted angrily, calling the allegation “absurd.”

Mr Trudeau told reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, “There is no doubt that India is a country of growing importance, and a country with which we must continue to work.”

He stated that Canada’s intention with the allegation was not to provoke India or cause problems, but rather to emphasize the importance of the rule of law and the protection of Canadians.

For months, relations between the countries – key trade and security partners as well as US allies – have been strained. Analysts believe they have reached an all-time low.

The Indian government quickly clarified that the suspension of visa services “applies to Canadians in a third country.”

“There have been threats made to our high commission [embassy] and consulates in Canada,” a foreign affairs ministry spokesman in Delhi said. “This has interfered with their normal functioning.” As a result, they are currently unable to process visa applications.”

“India seeks parity in rank and diplomatic strength between the two countries’ diplomatic missions,” he said. This is being sought in response to Canadian diplomatic meddling in our internal affairs.”

Hours earlier, Canada announced a reduction in personnel in India, citing social media threats to diplomats.

“In light of the current environment, where tensions have risen, we are taking steps to ensure the safety of our diplomats,” the State Department said in a statement.

Visa services from Canada are still available in India.

The two countries have long had close ties, and there is a lot at stake.

According to the 2021 census, Canada has 1.4 million people of Indian origin, more than half of whom are Sikhs, accounting for 3.7% of the country’s population. India also sends the most international students to Canada, accounting for 40% of total overseas students (320,000) in 2022.

According to Indian government statistics, approximately 80,000 Canadian tourists will visit India in 2021, trailing only the United States, Bangladesh, and the United Kingdom.

The row erupted on Monday after Canada accused India of murdering separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen who was shot dead in his vehicle outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia by two masked gunmen.

Canada’s intelligence agencies are looking into whether “agents of the government of India” were involved in the killing of Nijjar, whom India designated a terrorist in 2020.

India reacted angrily, claiming that Canada was attempting to “shift the focus away from Khalistani terrorists and extremists” who had been given refuge there. The Indian government has frequently reacted harshly to demands for Khalistan, or a separate Sikh homeland, made by Sikh separatists in Western countries.

On Thursday, Mr Trudeau was pressed by journalists about the evidence suggesting India was involved in the murder.

He did not provide any additional details, but did state that “the decision to share these allegations was not taken lightly.”

“It was done with the utmost seriousness,” Trudeau said, urging Indian officials to help with the investigation.

According to an Indian foreign ministry spokesperson, Canada has not shared specific information about Nijjar’s murder with India.

“We have conveyed this to the Canadian side, and we have made it clear to them that we are willing to look at any specific information that is provided to us,” Arindam Bagchi said on Thursday. “However, we have not yet received any such specific information.”

Info source – BBC

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