India announced the resumption of some visa services for Canadians in what could be a sign of thawing relations between the two countries.
The services were suspended after Ottawa’s allegations of Indian involvement in the murder of a Sikh separatist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Surrey, British Columbia. At the time, India cited “security threats” at its Canadian missions as the reason behind the suspension.
The High Commission of India’s latest statement announcing the restoration of visa services reads:
“After a considered review of the security situation that takes into account some recent Canadian measures in this regard, it has been decided to resume visa services for the following categories with effect from October 26th, 2023: Entry visa, Business visa, Medical visa, and Conference visa.”
Is it business as usual?
The reopening of visa services comes with a caveat. The visa services opened, namely the Entry visa, Business visa and Conference visa, are ones usually in use with Indian-origin Canadian passport holders, business travellers and investors in India. Thus, their reopening provides respite for only a particular category of the Canadian population.
Currently, tourist, student, employment and film visas are still on hold, with officials in India stating that further decisions will be made based on continuing evaluation of the situation.
A brief timeline of the India-Canada diplomatic rift
- On June 18th, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a known advocate of the Khalistan cause for creating a separate homeland for Sikhs, was murdered outside a Gurudwara in Surrey, British Columbia.
- September 18th, Canada expels a senior Indian diplomat, alleged to be the head of India’s foreign intelligence agency, in Canada for foreign interference.
- September 19th, in a tit-for-tat move, India expelled a top Canadian diplomat, citing growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in India’s internal matters and anti-India activities.
- On September 21st, India’s external affairs ministry announced a temporary suspension on issuing visas or providing visa services to all Canadian nationals in all categories due to security threats against its diplomats.
- September 24th, Canada updated its travel advisory for India, asking citizens to remain vigilant and exercise caution due to calls for protests and negative sentiment towards Canada on social media.
The most recent escalation in tensions
October 19th marked the most recent escalation between the two countries, with Canada forced to evacuate 41 diplomats and 42 family members after India’s threat to strip them of their diplomatic immunity.
Canada currently retains 21 diplomats in India and has temporarily closed three consulates.
Impact on Indian students and immigration
So far, the Canadian government has given no indication of halting or slowing down applications for prospective immigrants and students. Interested students or other applicants in India can still access the IRCC’s services.
The mister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marc Miller, noted that India was the top source country for permanent residents, temporary foreign workers and international students in 2022. In a message to reassure people caught in the diplomatic crossfire between the two nations, he said:
“I want to reassure our clients in India and Canadians who have family and friends in India that Canada will continue to accept and process all temporary and permanent resident applications from India.”