The diplomatic crisis between India and Canada has worsened, as India has halted its visa services in Canada indefinitely. The BLS Visa Application Centre, which processes Indian visa applications in Canada, said on its website that the suspension was due to operational reasons and asked applicants to check for updates.
The Indian government also issued a warning to its citizens in Canada, especially students, to be very careful while travelling in the country. It said that there were increasing anti-India activities and hate crimes in Canada, which were politically condoned. It also said that Indian diplomats and some sections of the Indian community who opposed the anti-India agenda were facing threats.
The tension between the two countries began on Monday, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed in a parliament speech that India may have been involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and a Sikh separatist activist. He also expelled a senior Indian diplomat from Canada.
India strongly rejected the accusation and said that Canada was sheltering terrorists and supporters of Khalistan, a separatist movement that seeks to create a Sikh homeland in India. It also expelled a Canadian diplomat from India and said that Canada’s failure to act against extremists was a long-standing concern.
The Canadian government, on Wednesday, dismissed India’s warning and said that Canada was a safe country.
However, the diplomatic standoff has caused anxiety and uncertainty among the Indian students in Canada and their parents back in India. According to Canadian government data, Indians constitute the largest chunk of international students in Canada. In 2022, 2.26 lakh students out of 5.5 lakh international students in Canada were from India1. And there were 3.2 lakh Indians staying in Canada on student visas, and contributing to its economy.
Many Indian students are worried about their safety, their visa status, and their future prospects in Canada. Some are also reconsidering their plans to study or work in Canada. A report by The Hans India quoted a consultant with Star Global Education Alliance as saying that there may be a drop in the number of Indian students going to Canada for higher studies. A report by The Deccan Herald said that several students are stressed to take the call now due to the latest development based on the allegations related to the killing of Khalistani activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
The diplomatic row will also impact the arrival of Canadian tourists, students and Canadians of Indian origin to India. The biggest casualty of this move is likely to be the Indian tourism sector. According to The Hindu Business Line, Canada was among the top 10 source countries for foreign tourist arrivals in India in 2022, with 3.8 lakh visitors5. The suspension of visa services will affect the travel plans of many Canadians who wish to visit India for leisure, business or education purposes.
The situation between India and Canada is tense and unpredictable at the moment. Both countries need to resolve their differences through dialogue and diplomacy, and ensure the safety and well-being of their citizens.