Patrick Doyle The Canadian Press The Indian flag flying at the Indian High Commission in Ottawa, on September 20
The High Commission of India in Canada announced Wednesday that officials will resume processing certain types of visa applications for Canadians applying anywhere in the country as well as abroad.
New Delhi had suspended these services at Indian offices in Canada and for Canadian citizens elsewhere in the world a month ago.
The high commission on Wednesday announced the resumption of issuance of travel visas. business, medical and conference visas, as well as applications from individuals who have family ties to India.
Restrictions appear to remain in place with respect to applications for tourist visas, studies and journalism.
Resumption of processing of applications for what India calls “entry visa” — reserved for “persons of Indian origin” and Indian citizens, their spouses and children — follows online outcry by Canadians who were unable to visit their loved ones during the busy wedding season in this country.
India restricted the issuance of visas last month, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed in the House that Canadian intelligence services were investigating “credible” information regarding “a potential link” between the Indian government and the assassination of a Canadian Sikh leader committed in British Columbia last June.
The Asian country stopped issuing visas to Canadian citizens in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver on September 21, then stopped serving Canadian citizens in other regions of the world.
New Delhi had alleged in September that its diplomats in Canada could not get to work safely. However, in an interview with The Canadian Press three weeks earlier, High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma said he was “very satisfied” with the way Canada had strengthened its protection of Indian diplomats.
The diplomatic mission explained that it had chosen to resume processing certain visa services starting Thursday “after a considered review of the security situation, which takes into account certain recent Canadian measures in this regard.” The high commission notes that “further decisions, if necessary, would be suggested based on a continued assessment of the situation.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the Minister of Immigration, Marc Miller, called the decision “a good sign” after “an anxious time” for many Canadians. However, he recalled that for his government, this suspension “should never have happened in the first place”.
Civil Protection Minister Harjit Sajjan also welcomed this “good news”, but he did not want to speculate on the message New Delhi was trying to send. Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, he too argued that “it would have been fine [if] he hadn't decided it in the first place.”
Minister Sajjan added that Ottawa still hoped for India's collaboration in the police investigation into the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. “A Canadian has been killed on Canadian soil, and we are asking for greater cooperation in the investigation,” the minister said.
In a statement, the Canada-India Business Council said said it was a “promising development” for trade between the two countries. “It is also a positive sign that both governments have expressed support for bilateral business and investment during these unusual times,” wrote the body’s president, Victor Thomas.
Protection of diplomatic personnel
Before Mr. Trudeau's announcement significantly aggravated tensions between Canada and India, New Delhi had publicly denounced demonstrations by Sikh separatist groups held in front of its diplomatic missions in Canada, as well as posters suggesting that cash rewards would be offered for the addresses of Indian diplomats.
India has formally asked Canada to better respect its duty to protect foreign diplomats.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said on September 14 that Indian diplomats in Canada “benefit from 24/7 security” — a service Ottawa offers to very few diplomatic missions.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said last weekend that his country was considering easing visa restrictions. “We stopped issuing visas to Canada because it was no longer safe for our diplomats to go to work,” he argued on Sunday.
Minister Jaishankar also criticized the federal Liberals, in comments that analysts say mark a departure from New Delhi's usual discourse on Canadian policies.
“The problems we have concern certain aspects of Canadian politics and the policies resulting from it,” he said.