Uncertainty shrouds plans of NRIs looking to visit Punjab
The restrictions announced on Thursday do not affect those that have Overseas Citizens of India cards, the ministry of external affairs has made clear
The Indian government’s decision to suspend visa services to Canadian citizens, in an escalation of the burgeoning diplomatic row between the two countries has upended plans of Punjab-based non-resident Indians (NRI), several of whom had planned to return to their ancestral homes in the state over the harsh Canadian winter.
India’s move came three days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that India may have been behind the killing of Khalistani separatist leader and designated terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey in June, charges that India has summarily rejected, in turn accusing Canada of becoming a safe haven for terrorists and extremists.
Canada has a large Indian diaspora, a large proportion from Punjab, with several families typically heading back in September and October before the start of the festive season.
Amarjit Kaur, for instance, a Canadian passport holder based in Brampton, said she planned to attend the marriage of her niece in December. “I was going to visit my brother after six years but Thursday’s developments have put these plans on hold. We already booked air tickets for December 15, and were going to apply for an Indian visa in October,” she said.
The restrictions announced on Thursday do not affect those that have Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards, the ministry of external affairs has made clear. But Sandeep Singh, who lives in Surrey, but migrated from Dholan village said that he was to celebrate his son’s first Lohri in Punjab with family and friends. “We have our OCI cards but were to apply for an Indian visa for our son. We will have to wait and watch now.”
Sukhdeep Singh (39), based out of Surrey and originally from Barnala, said that as usual his elderly relatives hoped to escape the Canadian winter and travel to India in the coming months. “Many old people choose to do this on an annual basis. But this development have left them in limbo.”
The diplomatic row has also caused some consternation in the travel industry in Punjab.
Immigration consultant Inderpal Singh, who also owns a hotel in Jalandhar, said he received a dozen calls from Canadian NRI’s, worried about their reservations. “The tourism and hotel industry will be impacted because they usually come in large numbers during the winters and the wedding season. At least two clients have asked me to cancel all reservations because their guests were meant to come from Canada,” Singh said.