India suspended visas for Canadian citizens, saying it posed a “security threat” to Canadian diplomats, escalating a row between the two countries after Ottawa accused New Delhi of allegedly killing Sikh separatist activists on its soil.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which processes Indian visa applications in Canada, wrote to Indian exchanges on Thursday that visa services “have been suspended until further notice.”
“Due to operational reasons, Indian visa services in Canada have been suspended from September 21, 2023 until further notice,” said the letter sent to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the National Stock Exchange of India and the Metropolitan Stock Exchange. . Earlier, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics said on its website that India has suspended visa services for Canadian citizens from Thursday, citing a statement from the Indian embassy.
The post was briefly taken down on Thursday and then reappeared without explanation. India’s Ministry of External Affairs said the “security threat” faced by the Indian High Commission and consulates in Canada has prompted India to take temporary measures to suspend the issuance of all categories of visas.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The problem is that incitement to violence and inaction by Canadian authorities has created an environment that disrupts the operations of our High Commissions and Consulates, so we have temporarily suspended the issuance of visas or the provision of visa services.” said Arinda M. Bagchi. “We have always believed that providing security is the responsibility of the host government,” he told reporters in New Delhi on Thursday.
The news comes after India’s Ministry of External Affairs issued a strict travel warning on Wednesday, urging its citizens to be vigilant in Canada, warning them of “political acquiescence to hate crimes.”
CNN has reached out to India’s Ministry of External Affairs and the US. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS International).
A few days earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed that authorities were investigating a possible link between “agents of the Indian government” and the slain Canadian Sikh citizen Hardy Singh Nijar. A “trusted claim” for a contact. The masked man in June.
New Delhi strongly rejected the allegations, calling them “ridiculous and motivated”.
India’s foreign ministry said Canada “has not provided any concrete information” to support Delhi’s alleged involvement in Nijar’s death. “I would also like to point out that from our perspective, very specific evidence of criminal activity by individuals in Canada has been routinely shared with Canadian authorities, but no action has been taken,” ministry spokesman Bagchi said. “.
Budge added that he expects Canada’s diplomatic presence in the country to be scaled back. But Trudeau’s announcement strained relations, with both India and Canada expelling top diplomats from each other, creating an embarrassing rift between key US partners.
Nijjar is an outspoken supporter of an independent Sikh homeland called Khalistan, which would include parts of the Indian state of Punjab. The Khalistani movement is banned in India and is considered a national security threat by the government. Many groups associated with the movement have been classified as “terrorist organisations” under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Nijar’s name is on the Home Ministry’s UAPA terrorist list, and in 2020 India’s National Investigation Agency accused him of “attempting to radicalize Sikh communities worldwide by advocating the creation of ‘Khalistan'”, adding that he had “attempted to incite Sikhs to vote for secession, to incite against the Government of India and commit violence.
In June, he was shot by two masked gunmen in his truck outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia, according to local police.
His death both shocked and outraged Canada’s Sikh community, one of the largest outside India, with more than 770,000 members of the religious minority. Canadian police have not made any arrests in connection with Nijar’s murder. But in an August update, police released a statement saying they were investigating three suspects and released a description of the alleged getaway vehicle and asked for the public’s help.