India on Thursday indefinitely suspended visa services in Canada citing security threats to its officials.
Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the normal functioning of the Indian high commission and consulates in Canada has been disrupted as they have been facing security threats.
“Accordingly, our High Commission and Consulates are temporarily unable to process visa applications,” he told reporters.
He clarified that e-visa services and visas to Canadian passport holders applying from third countries are also suspended.
The decision came amid a widening rift between the two countries in the wake of Canada’s allegations that India may have been involved in the assassination of a Sikh separatist leader in suburban Vancouver.
Earlier in the day, BLS International, the agency which runs Indian visa application centres in Canada, had announced that visa services had been suspended in Canada due to “operational reasons”. It had cited a notice from the Indian mission.
Canada, however, said it will not stop issuing visas in India and that all its missions are open and operational, The National Post reported.
Jean-Pierre J Godbout, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, announced that the country was pulling some of its diplomats out of India “out of an abundance of caution”.
“With some diplomats having received threats on various social media platforms, Global Affairs Canada is assessing its staff complement in India,” Godbout added. “As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India.”
On Monday, Candian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had told Parliament that the country’s intelligence agencies were actively pursuing “credible allegations” tying Indian agents to the shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh leader who was killed by masked gunmen on June 18 in Surrey, outside Vancouver.
India had quickly rejected the charges as “absurd and motivated”. It also expelled a Canadian diplomat, in a tit-for-tat move after Canada expelled an official of the Indian foreign intelligence service.
On Wednesday, India advised its citizens in Canada and those planning to travel to the North American country to be cautious because of “growing anti-India activities and politically condoned hate-crimes”.
The foreign ministry directed Indian citizens in Canada, including students, to register with the High Commission of India in Ottawa or Consulates General.
The Canadian government, however, rejected the travel advisory shortly after it was released.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller said that Canada is a safe country. “I think people should read that statement for what it is,” he added.