India on 21 September announced that it would suspend issuing visas to Canadian citizens amid an escalating row over the killing of a Khalistani separatist on Canadian soil. India said the temporary move was due to “security threats” disrupting work at its missions in Canada. Tensions flared earlier this week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said India may have been behind the 18 June killing.
The Indian government has reacted strongly to this accusations, calling them “absurd” and “baseless.” On Thursday, Trudeau claimed that he was “not looking to provoke India with the allegation.” Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, he further said: “There is no question that India is a country of growing importance and a country we need to continue to work with.”
The Central government also made clear in no uncertain terms that the suspension of visa services also “applies to Canadians in a third country”. “There have been threats made to our high commission [embassy] and consulates in Canada,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said yesterday in Delhi. The Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday issued an advisory for Indian nationals and students studying in Canada, advising them to “exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant.” Earlier on Thursday Canada had announced it was reducing its personnel in India, saying some diplomats had received threats on social media. “In light of the current environment where tensions have heightened, we are taking action to ensure the safety of our diplomats,” a statement said.
The spat has also worried students who plan to travel abroad to pursue higher education and those with valid student visas on Canadian soil. According to data, Indian students are the highest number of student visa holders in Canada. Last year alone, the country issued 2,26,450 student visas to Indians—41% of all total international student visa holders. According to official data, more than 60,000 students have gone to Canada to study in the first six months of 2022. Notably, Canada this announced that it would cap the student visas it issues, citing a “housing crisis.”