Source : Asian News International (ANI)
“Security threats have disrupted normal functioning of consulates”: India on suspension of visa service in Canada
New Delhi: India said on Thursday that security threats being faced by the country’s High Commission and Consulates in Canada have disrupted their normal functioning and they are temporarily unable to process visa applications.
Answering queries during the weekly press conference, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the issue is the incitement of violence, inaction by Canadian authorities and the creation of an environment that “disrupts the functioning of our consulates”.
The remarks came hours after visa services provider BLS International said that it has with immediate effect suspended Indian visa services in Canada.
The spokesperson faced a volley of questions over the row between India and Canada following the tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats and the allegations made by Canada in connection with the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
“You are aware of the security threats being faced by our High Commission and Consulates in Canada. This has disrupted their normal functioning. Accordingly, our High Commission and Consulates are temporarily unable to process visa applications. We will be reviewing the situation on a regular basis,” he said.
Answering a query on e-visas, Bagchi said e-visas are also on temporary suspension. “All categories of visas are suspended,” he said.
“Those who have valid visas, OCIs are free to travel to India. The issue is the incitement of violence, inaction by Canadian authorities and the creation of an environment that disrupts the functioning of our consulates which is what is making us stop temporarily the issuance of visa services. We will review this situation on a regular basis,” he added.
Answering a query related to the security of diplomats, Bagchi said India takes its obligations about the security of diplomats seriously and expects Canadian authorities to show similar sensitivity.
“We take our obligations very seriously. We will be certainly providing all security to foreign diplomats in India. We also expect Canadian authorities to show similar sensitivity to our diplomats in Canada,” Bagchi said.
Answering a query related to reports concerning visas issued by Canada, Bagchi said “discrimination” by the Canadian side is “something of concern”.
“We have seen reports…if there are cases where we believe people are not being given fair treatment or there is discrimination, we do take these things up..but discrimination in how visas are granted by the Canadian side is something of concern and there have been cases in the past…,” Bagchi said.
Bilateral relations between India and Canada have hit a downward spiral after Prime Minister Trudeau on Monday alleged that “Indian agents” were behind the shooting of Hardeep Nijjar.
India has rejected the allegations by the Trudeau administration, terming them “absurd” and “motivated”.
“We have seen and reject the statement of the Canadian Prime Minister in their Parliament, as also the statement by their Foreign Minister. Allegations of Government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated,” MEA had said in a statement.
“Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister to our Prime Minister and were completely rejected. We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law,” it added.
Bagchi said India is engaged with its partners on various issues.
“We have been, of course, engaged with our partners in various issues, particularly this one, and we have been discussing with them. we have conveyed our position, and how we see this development and I think those are part of ongoing conversations,” Bagchi said.
Visa services provider BLS International has with immediate effect suspended Indian visa services in Canada, amid a diplomatic standoff between the countries.
“Due to operation reasons, with immediate effect i.e. 21 September 2023, Indian visa services in Canada have been suspended till further notice,” the company informed stock exchanges in a filing on Thursday.
It added the impact of this move is “negligible” on the company’s financials as the Canadian visa issuance business contributes less than 2 per cent to its total annual revenue.
India had on Wednesday issued an advisory for Indian Nationals and Indian Students in Canada.
It said that in view of growing anti-India activities and “politically-condoned hate crimes” and criminal violence in Canada, all Indian nationals there and those contemplating travel are urged to exercise utmost caution.
“Recently, threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda. Indian nationals are therefore advised to avoid travelling to regions and potential venues in Canada that have seen such incidents,” the advisory said.
“Our High Commission/Consulates General will continue to be in contact with the Canadian authorities to ensure the safety and well being of the Indian community in Canada. Given the deteriorating security environment in Canada, Indian students in particular are advised to exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant,” it added.
The advisory called upon Indian nationals and students from India in Canada must also register with the High Commission of India in Ottawa or the Consulates General of India in Toronto and Vancouver through their respective websites, or the MADAD portal madad.gov.in.
It said registration would enable the High Commission and the Consulates General to better connect with Indian citizens in Canada in the event of any emergency or untoward incident.