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India Halts Visa Operations in Canada Amid Growing Tensions Over Death of Canadian National

by Michael Nguyen
7 comments
Diplomatic Tensions

India’s visa application center in Canada ceased its operations on Thursday, exacerbating the already strained relationship between the two nations. This action followed comments made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Parliament on Monday, asserting “credible allegations” that India might be implicated in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh activist advocating for independence.

Nijjar, who had long been sought by India for his activism, was fatally shot in June near the religious center he presided over. In response to Trudeau’s remarks, Canada expelled an Indian diplomat; India reciprocated by expelling a Canadian diplomat on Tuesday. India has dismissed Canada’s ongoing investigation into the allegations as baseless, characterizing it as an attempt to divert attention from the fact that Nijjar and other individuals wanted by India were residing in Canada.

A statement from the BLS Indian Visa Application Center in Canada noted, “For operational reasons, effective from September 21, Indian visa services are suspended until further notice.” The center did not elaborate on the specific reasons for the suspension. BLS is the entity responsible for processing visa applications for India.

The Ministry of External Affairs of India has yet to issue a formal comment. However, on Wednesday, the ministry updated its travel advisory for Indian nationals residing or traveling in Canada. The advisory warned of an increase in “anti-India activities and politically sanctioned hate crimes,” particularly targeting Indian students in Canada.

Indians were also advised to steer clear of locations in Canada where specific threats have been made against Indian diplomats and members of the Indian community who are opposed to anti-India agendas.

At the time of his death, Nijjar was in the process of organizing an informal referendum among the global Sikh community on the issue of independence from India. He had consistently refuted India’s claims that he was engaged in terrorism.

Calls for a separate Sikh state, known as Khalistan, originated as an insurgency in the Indian state of Punjab during the 1970s. The movement was largely quelled through a stringent crackdown by the Indian government that resulted in thousands of deaths. Although the movement’s influence has waned, it continues to have advocates, both in Punjab, where the majority of the population is Sikh, and among the extensive Sikh diaspora overseas.

On Wednesday, India’s National Investigation Agency declared it had ramped up its operations against Sikh insurgents within its territory. The agency offered monetary rewards of up to 1 million rupees (approximately $12,000) for information leading to the capture of five insurgents, including one thought to be located in neighboring Pakistan.

The agency alleges these individuals are engaged in extortion activities targeting businesses on behalf of a proscribed Sikh organization, Babbar Khalsa International, as well as being involved in targeted assassinations within India. The statement did not specify any countries but noted that these insurgents have “established a network of operatives in various countries to further their terrorist activities in India.”

India has long accused Pakistan of supporting insurgencies in both Kashmir and Punjab—allegations that Pakistan consistently denies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about India-Canada tensions

What led to the suspension of India’s visa services in Canada?

The suspension of India’s visa services in Canada came in the wake of escalating tensions between the two countries. The strain was exacerbated after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament there were “credible allegations” that India might have been involved in the assassination of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar and why is his assassination significant?

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a Sikh independence activist who had been wanted by India for years. He was gunned down in June outside the religious center he led. His assassination has become a point of contention between India and Canada, with Canada investigating possible Indian involvement in the killing.

What actions have been taken by Canada and India diplomatically?

In response to the allegations of Indian involvement in Nijjar’s assassination, Canada expelled an Indian diplomat. India reciprocated by expelling a Canadian diplomat on the following Tuesday. Both countries have issued travel advisories, with India particularly cautioning its citizens in Canada about “growing anti-India activities and politically condoned hate-crimes.”

What did India’s updated travel advisory say?

India’s Ministry of External Affairs issued an updated travel advisory urging its citizens, especially students, residing or traveling in Canada to exercise caution due to an increase in “anti-India activities and politically sanctioned hate crimes.” The advisory also advised Indians to avoid locations where threats have been made against diplomats and members of the Indian community who oppose anti-India agendas.

What is the status of the Sikh independence movement known as Khalistan?

The Khalistan movement originated as an insurgency in India’s Punjab state in the 1970s. It was largely suppressed through a stringent Indian government crackdown that led to thousands of deaths. Although its political influence has diminished, the movement continues to have advocates, particularly in Punjab where Sikhs form a majority, and among the extensive Sikh diaspora overseas.

What steps has India’s National Investigation Agency taken regarding Sikh insurgents?

India’s National Investigation Agency announced that it has intensified its operations against Sikh insurgents operating within its territory. The agency is offering rewards of up to 1 million rupees (approximately $12,000) for information leading to the arrest of five insurgents, including one thought to be based in neighboring Pakistan.

What are India’s allegations against Pakistan in the context of insurgencies?

India accuses Pakistan of supporting insurgencies in both the regions of Kashmir and Punjab. However, Pakistan has consistently denied these allegations.

More about India-Canada tensions

  • India-Canada Relations: An Overview
  • The Life and Activism of Hardeep Singh Nijjar
  • Diplomatic Expulsions: A Historical Perspective
  • Indian Ministry of External Affairs: Travel Advisories
  • The Khalistan Movement: History and Current Status
  • India’s National Investigation Agency: Recent Announcements
  • India-Pakistan Relations and Accusations on Insurgencies

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7 comments

JakeT September 21, 2023 - 11:59 am

Khalistan movement’s old but still causing ripples, huh? Interesting how past movements can have such lasting impacts.

Reply
Emily_R September 21, 2023 - 1:41 pm

This article is so well detailed, covers all angles. But what’s the solution? Both countries need to sit down and sort this out.

Reply
Ravi Kumar September 21, 2023 - 5:04 pm

cant believe India’s actually suspended visa services. As an Indian studying in Canada, the travel advisory really concerns me. What’s gonna happen next?

Reply
Mike Johnson September 21, 2023 - 5:09 pm

Wow, this India-Canada situation is really heating up. Trudeau making allegations in Parliament? That’s serious stuff right there.

Reply
Ali Zafar September 21, 2023 - 11:18 pm

Pakistan getting dragged into this too? That region’s really a powder keg. One spark and who knows what’ll happen.

Reply
KarenM September 22, 2023 - 2:32 am

Diplomatic expulsions are no small matter. This could really affect long term relations between India and Canada. Hope they resolve it soon.

Reply
Sarah W September 22, 2023 - 3:39 am

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a significant figure for many. Its heartbreaking to see how his death has become a point of diplomatic contention instead of a quest for justice.

Reply

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