Patrick Doyle The Canadian Press The flag of India flies in front of the offices of the Indian High Commission in Canada , in Ottawa.
Canada announced Thursday a temporary reduction of its consular and diplomatic staff in India after threats published on social networks, in the midst of a diplomatic crisis with New Delhi which has “suspended” the processing of Indian visas in Canada.
On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked India to “take seriously” the matter of the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and the suspicions of the involvement of New Delhi agents raised on Monday by Ottawa, which said rely on “credible elements”.
The Indian government has described the Canadian accusations as “absurd” and denied “any act of violence in Canada”.
Diplomatic relations between Canada and India have since reached their lowest point, marked by reciprocal expulsions of diplomats.
“Diplomats (Canadian: editor's note) having received threats on various social media platforms, Canada's Department of International Affairs is currently evaluating its personnel in India,” the Canadian mission said in a press release.
“In the current context where tensions have increased, we are taking measures to ensure the safety of our diplomats,” added the Canadian mission, “as a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust the presence of personnel in India.”
The mission did not specify the number of staff affected, but said its offices were “open and operational.”
“We are waiting for India that it ensures the security of our diplomats and consular officers accredited in India, just as we ensure theirs here,” the mission underlined in its press release.
Indian visas “suspended” in Canada
Earlier on Thursday, BLS International, India's official visa agency in Canada had said it had been asked to “suspend” the processing of Indian visas.
“Important notice from the mission Indian: For operational reasons, effective September 21, 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended until further notice,” the Indian outsourcing services provider for government and diplomatic missions had said on its website on Thursday in the world.
India's foreign ministry had no immediate comment.
On Wednesday, India's foreign ministry said it was concerned about its nationals traveling to Canada, “given the increase in anti-Indian activities and politically motivated hate and criminal crimes in Canada.”
“Recently, threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and members of the Indian community who oppose the anti-Indian agenda,” the ministry added in a statement.
“It is advisable Indian students in particular to exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant,” he said.
The Canadian government responded by asserting that its country was “safe.”
“I take note of India's travel advisory […] Canada is a safe country,” Canadian Minister of Public Safety Dominic LeBlanc told reporters.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead in June in Canada by two masked men in the parking lot of the Sikh temple he led in Surrey, near Vancouver, in British Columbia (west). He succumbed to his injuries on the spot.
“Important” to continue the investigation
Activist for the creation of “Khalistan”, a Sikh state independent in northern India, he arrived in Canada in 1997 and was naturalized in 2015.
He was wanted by Indian authorities for alleged acts of terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder.
Charges that he denied, according to the World Sikh Organization of Canada, a group of defending the interests of Canadian Sikhs.
Since his murder and the violent protests that followed in Canada, relations between Ottawa and New Delhi have deteriorated significantly.
Ottawa recently suspended negotiations for a free trade agreement with India and its Commerce Minister last week canceled a planned trip to the country in October.
This affair “is extremely serious and has significant consequences, both in terms of international law and in other aspects for Canada,” Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.
The case is being closely followed elsewhere in the world : Tuesday, Washington said it was “deeply concerned about the Canadian allegations.”
“It is very important that Canada’s investigation continues and that the guilty are brought to justice,” commented Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council.
For its part, London considered that it was “particularly important” to let Canadian authorities lead the investigation.< /p>
- The end of negotiations with India is not unrelated to the sponsored assassination
- Diplomatic tensions between Canada and India could last for months