The Indian High Commission in Ottawa on Wednesday announced resumption of select visa services for Canadians.
The Indian diplomatic mission in Canada said that the services will resume only for entry, business, medical and conference visas from Thursday. It said that the decision was taken “after a considered review of the security situation that takes into account some recent Canadian measures in this regard”.
On September 21, India 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 had been disrupted as the diplomatic staff faced security threats. He said that e-visa services and visas to Canadian passport holders applying from third countries are also suspended.
This came amid a widening diplomatic rift between India and Canada after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations on September 18 that agents of the Indian government were involved in Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s assassination near Vancouver in June.
On Sunday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India would resume visa services for Canadians if Indian diplomats are promised security in Canada.
Jaishankar said that ensuring the safety and security of diplomats is the most fundamental aspect of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the cornerstone of international relations and international law.
“And right now that is what has in many ways been challenged in Canada that our people are not safe, our diplomats are not safe,” he said.
Stating that the relationship between India and Canada was going through a “difficult phase”, the minister reiterated that India sought reduced Canadian diplomatic presence in the country due to concerns about “continuous interference” in its internal affairs.
“We have not made much of that public,” said Jaishankar. “My sense is, over a period of time, more stuff will come out and people will understand why we had the kind of discomfort with many of them, which we did.”
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on October 19 that her government had withdrawn 41 of its 62 diplomats from India. She also said that Canada would not take the retaliatory step of asking India to withdraw its diplomats.
Joly said that India had threatened to unilaterally revoke the diplomats’ official status by October 20 if they did not leave the country. She called this “unreasonable and escalatory” and claimed that New Delhi revoking the diplomats’ official status violated the Vienna Convention.
A day later, New Delhi said that it rejects any attempt to portray implementing parity as a violation of international norms.
On Wednesday, Canada’s Immigration Minister Marc Miller called New Delhi’s move “a good sign” after what he described as an “anxious time” for many Canadians, CTV News reported. “Our feeling is that a suspension should never have happened in the first place,” he added.
The country’s Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan said that he will not speculate on what message New Delhi is trying to send as Ottawa is still seeking India’s help in Nijjar’s murder case.