- India suspends Canadian visas.
- Diplomatic tensions over Sikh separatist.
- Canada reduces staff in India.
In the wake of an intensifying dispute over the killing of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil, India has temporarily halted the issuance of visas to Canadian citizens. India cites “security threats” as the reason behind this move, which has disrupted the operations of Indian missions in Canada.
Tensions flared this week after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that India might have had a role in the assassination that occurred on June 18. However, Trudeau clarified on Thursday that his intention was not to provoke India with the allegation but to emphasize the importance of the rule of law and the protection of Canadians.
The Indian government clarified that the suspension of visa services applies to Canadians in other countries as well, citing threats made to its high commission and consulates in Canada as the reason. This disruption has hindered their normal functioning and their ability to process visa applications.
In response to the heightened tensions, Canada announced that it is reducing its personnel in India, citing threats received by some diplomats on social media. Canada’s visa services in India, however, remain operational.
India and Canada have a strong, important relationship. Canada is home to 1.4 million people of Indian origin, including over half of them who are Sikhs, constituting 3.7% of the country’s population.
Furthermore, India sends the largest number of international students to Canada, making up 40% of the total overseas students in 2022.
The diplomatic dispute erupted when Canada connected India to the murder of separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen who was fatally shot by two masked gunmen outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mentioned that Canada’s intelligence agencies were investigating whether “agents of the government of India” were involved in the killing. India strongly rejected this accusation, emphasizing that Canada was trying to divert attention from Khalistani terrorists and extremists who had found refuge there.
When pressed for evidence linking India to the murder, Trudeau did not provide specifics but stressed the seriousness of the allegations. He urged Indian officials to cooperate with the investigation.
The Khalistan movement, which sought a separate Sikh homeland, saw its peak in India during the 1980s but has since lost momentum within India. However, it retains support among some segments of the Sikh diaspora in countries like Canada, Australia, and the UK.