Diplomatic tensions | India Resumes Issuing Visas for Canadians

(Ottawa) The High Commission of India in Canada announced Wednesday that officials will resume processing certain types of visa applications for Canadians applying across the country as well as abroad.

New Delhi suspended these services a month ago in Indian offices in Canada and for Canadian citizens elsewhere in the world.

The high commission on Wednesday announced the resumption of issuance of business visas, medical visas and conference visas, as well as applications from people who have family ties in India.

Restrictions appear to remain in effect regarding tourist, student and journalist visa applications.

The resumption of processing applications for what India calls the “entry visa” — reserved for “persons of Indian origin” or Indian citizens, their spouse and children — follows online outcry from Canadians who were unable to visit their loved ones during this country’s busy wedding season.

India restricted the issuance of visas last month, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed in the House that Canadian intelligence services were investigating “credible” information regarding “a potential link” between the Indian government and the The assassination of a Canadian Sikh leader in British Columbia last June.

India stopped issuing visas to Canadian citizens in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver on September 21, then eventually stopped serving Canadian citizens in other parts of the world.

Ottawa relieved

New Delhi pleaded in September that its diplomats in Canada could not go to work safely. However, in an interview with The Canadian Press three weeks earlier, High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma declared that he was “very satisfied” with the way Canada had strengthened its protection of Indian diplomats.

The diplomatic mission explained that it had chosen to resume processing certain visa services starting Thursday “after a thoughtful review of the security situation, which takes into account certain recent Canadian measures in this regard.” The high commission notes that “further decisions, if any, would be suggested based on a continuous assessment of the situation.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Immigration Minister Marc Miller called the decision a “good sign” after “an distressing time” for many Canadians. However, he recalled that for his government, this suspension “should never have happened in the first place”.

The Minister of Civil Protection, Harjit Sajjan, also welcomed this “good news”, but he did not want to speculate on the message that New Delhi was trying to send. Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, he too argued that “it would have been fine (if they) hadn’t decided it in the first place.”

Minister Sajjan added that Ottawa still hoped for India’s collaboration in the police investigation into the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. “A Canadian was killed on Canadian soil and we are asking for greater cooperation in the investigation,” the minister said.

In a statement, the Canada-India Business Council said it was a “promising development” for trade between the two countries. “It is also a positive sign that both governments have expressed support for bilateral business and investment during these unusual times,” wrote the body’s president, Victor Thomas.

Protection of diplomatic personnel

Before Mr. Trudeau’s announcement significantly escalated 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 rewards in cash for the addresses of Indian diplomats.

India has officially asked Canada to better respect its duty to protect foreign diplomats.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said on September 14 that Indian diplomats in Canada “benefit from 24/7 security” — a service Ottawa provides to very few diplomatic missions.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said late last week that his country was considering easing visa restrictions. “We stopped issuing visas to Canada because it was no longer safe for our diplomats to go to work to issue visas,” he said on Sunday.

Minister Jaishankar also criticized the federal Liberals, in comments that analysts said marked a departure from New Delhi’s usual rhetoric on Canadian policies.

“The problems we have relate to certain aspects of Canadian politics and the public policies that result from them,” Mr. Jaishankar said.

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