‘Situation still not ideal’: Indian High Commissioner to Canada on visa row | World News - Hindustan Times
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‘Situation still not ideal’: Indian High Commissioner to Canada on visa row

Oct 25, 2023 11:15 AM IST

Last week, 41 Canadian diplomats were pulled from India after New Delhi said they would lose diplomatic immunity if they remained in station beyond October 20

The resumption of visa issuances to Canadians is not imminent as the “situation is still not ideal to conduct normal diplomatic and Consular functions by all Indian diplomats and consular officials,” India’s High Commissioner to Canada Sanjay Kumar Verma said.

Indian High Commissioner to Canada Sanjay Kumar Verma. (Photo from X)
Indian High Commissioner to Canada Sanjay Kumar Verma. (Photo from X)

“If improvement in the security environment for Indian diplomats and consular officials stationed in Canada shows a positive sign, there is a likelihood of some relaxation in the existing Indian visa regime for Canadian citizens,” Verma said in an interview with HT.

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But there is the lingering problem of pro-Khalistan elements continuing to target India’s seniormost diplomats in the country as well as its missions, he said. Without mentioning the pro-Khalistani groups like Sikhs for Justice, or SFJ, Verma said, “Security threats per se originate from anti-India activities of inimical elements in Canada, who are very small in number. As long as the core reasons are not dealt with, security threat will continue to persist.”

Pro-Khalistan groups organised car rallies to India’s High Commission in Ottawa and its Consulates in Toronto and Vancouver on Saturday. They carried posters describing Verma, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar as ‘Enemies of Canada’. SFJ has multiple programmes on its agenda, including the next phase of the so-called Khalistan Referendum in Surrey on October 29.

“Indian authorities continuously assess the security of Indian diplomats and consular officials stationed in Canada, as well as that of our diplomatic and consular premises,” Verma said.

Canada has provided personal security details to diplomats while also enhancing coverage of the missions. But, Verma said, “Provision of security to key Indian diplomats and consular officials does not necessarily mean that the security environment has improved. It only means that despite threats to their people, they are able to have restricted physical movement. The situation is still not ideal to conduct normal diplomatic and Consular functions by all Indian diplomats and consular officials.”

Jaishankar had said in New Delhi on Saturday that “right now, that is what has in many ways been challenged in Canada, that our people are not safe, our diplomats are not safe. So, if we see progress there, I would like very much to resume the issue of visas. My hope would be that it would be something which should happen very soon.”

Issuing of visas was indefinitely suspended on September 21. BLS International, which runs the visa application centres in Canada, posted a scrolling message on its Canadian website: “Important notice from the Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21st September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice.

Also Read:Canada opposition leader says will restore ‘professional relationship’ with India

India-Canada relations hit rock bottom after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the House of Commons on September 18 that there were “credible allegations” of a potential link between Indian agents and the killing of pro-Khalistan figure Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18.

In the immediate aftermath, both countries expelled a diplomat each since. Last week, 41 Canadian diplomats were pulled from India after New Delhi said they would lose diplomatic immunity if they remained in station beyond Friday (October 20). Canada described that act as “mass expulsion” of its diplomats, while India has argued it wanted “parity” in the numbers of diplomats.

Nijjar, who was SFJ’s principal in British Columbia, was gunned down in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara that he headed in Surrey.

While India had accused Nijjar of being a terrorist, the accusations against him were never tested in a Canadian court.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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