Lazy eyes listen
The Indian government has ordered the indefinite suspension of services for Canadian nationals, citing “security reasons” as the rationale for the move.
This decision came amid escalating diplomatic tensions between the two countries, triggered by suspicions of India’s complicity in the death of a Sikh separatist.
“Indian high commission and consulates in Canada are temporarily unable to process visa applications as work is disrupted due to security reasons,” a foreign ministry spokesperson told media on Thursday, emphasising that the decision was made after threats were made against Indian diplomats on social media platforms. He noted that Indian officials are assessing the suspension on a daily basis.
Canadian nationals applying for Indian visas in third countries will face a temporary halt in processing because this “at some point will involve operations of our high commission in Canada.”
Earlier, BLS International, a private business that handles Indian visa applications in Canada, made a notification on its website. “Important notice from the Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, Indian visa services have been suspended with effect from 21st September 2023 [Thursday] until further notice,” the note stated.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has issued no formal notification regarding the suspension of visa services, and the website of the Indian High Commission in Ottowa was down at the time of writing on Thursday.
The suspension, which effectively prevents Canadians from acquiring an Indian visa, comes on the heels of a MEA advise issued on Wednesday warning Indian nationals and students in Canada to be cautious owing to suspected anti-India activities and “politically-condoned hate crimes.” Indians make for more than 40% of all overseas students in Canada.
For its part, the Canadian High Commission in India has also announced it would “temporarily adjust staff presence” in the country following alleged “security threats” to diplomats.
“In light of the current environment where tensions have heightened, we are taking action to ensure the safety of our diplomats. With some diplomats having received threats on various social media platforms, Global Affairs Canada is assessing its staff complement in India. As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India,” the diplomatic mission told ANI news agency in a statement on Thursday.
The High Commission and all consulates in India, according to the statement, are “open and operational and continue to serve clients.”
Canada has also asked increased protection for its operations in New Delhi, including the High Commission and consulates in Mumbai, Chandigarh, and Bengaluru. Similarly, India has requested increased protection at its High Commission in Ottawa as well as its consulates in Toronto and Vancouver.
The Indian government requested more security after the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), an organisation outlawed by the Indian government in 2019, threatened to “shut down Indian missions,” referring to them as “terror houses.” Gurpatwant Pannun, SFJ’s legal counsel and a terrorist in India, threatened Hindus of Indian descent in a video that went popular on social media.