NEW DELHI: Following a recent diplomatic clash between India and Canada, resulting in the suspension of visa services in Canada on September 21, there’s news of a positive turn. India has officially reinstated e-visa services for Canadian nationals after a hiatus of almost two months.
External Affairs Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, addressed the press during a post-G20 Leaders’ Summit conference on Wednesday, providing insights into the decision to halt services and the subsequent resumption.
He emphasised that the initial suspension was a temporary measure driven by security concerns, as the situation in Canada made it challenging for Indian diplomats to carry out essential visa-processing tasks.
Jaishankar stated, “What had happened was we had temporarily suspended visa issuance because the situation in Canada made it difficult for our diplomats to do the, you know, frankly to go to the office and do the necessary work for processing visas. As the situation there has become more secure or relatively improved, I think we have found it possible for the visa services to progressively resume.”
The External Affairs Minister, speaking alongside Union Minister for Finance Nirmala Sitharaman, noted that the decision to resume e-visa services was a logical consequence, as physical visas had already restarted in various categories. “And at that time itself, we said we would be looking at e-visas next. So, I think it’s the logical consequence,” he explained.
The suspension of visa services occurred against a backdrop of heightened tensions between India and Canada, with BLS International, a visa application centre in Canada, officially announcing the suspension on September 21 due to operational reasons. The message on its Canadian website read, “Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice. Please keep checking BLS website for further updates.”
India began issuing entry visas, business visas, medical visas, and conference visas again from October 26, one month after the initial suspension. The strained relations between the two nations escalated when Canada accused India of involvement in the killing of a Khalistani separatist on Canadian soil. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged a “potential” link of Indian agents to the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June.
In response to Trudeau’s allegations, India temporarily suspended visa issuance to Canadian citizens and requested Ottawa to reduce its diplomatic presence in the country. Jaishankar stated that India invoked the provision of parity in Canada’s diplomatic presence due to concerns over interference in New Delhi’s affairs by Canadian personnel. He affirmed that the resumption of visa services in Canada would depend on the progress in ensuring the safety of Indian diplomats in the country.