In a diplomatic spat caused by Ottawa’s accusation that New Delhi was complicit in the slaying of a Sikh separatist, India’s official visa processor in Canada said Thursday it had been directed to cease processing applications before removing the notification.
BLS withdrew the message from their website shortly after the announcement was widely publicized in Indian media. The Indian Foreign Ministry did not respond immediately.
An official at the New Delhi-based BLS declined to be quoted and directed AFP to Indian authorities.
“Important notice from Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” BLS International had posted on their website Thursday.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has requested that India investigate claims that Indian spies were involved in the June murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Vancouver with “utmost seriousness.”
The fallout sparked diplomatic expulsions and a vehement denial from India, which declared any accusation that it played a role in Nijjar’s death was “absurd.”
The visa restriction comes a day after India’s foreign ministry expressed concern about the safety of its citizens in Canada due to “politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence.”
“Threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda,” a ministry statement said Wednesday.
“Indian nationals are therefore advised to avoid travelling to regions and potential venues in Canada that have seen such incidents.”
The advisory did not name specific cities or locations for Indians to avoid.
Nijjar was gunned down by two masked assassins outside the Sikh temple he presided over in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb.
Nijjar, a campaigner for the establishment of a Sikh state known as Khalistan, was wanted by Indian police for alleged terrorist and murder conspiracy.
According to the World Sikh Organization of Canada, a non-profit organization that claims to represent Canadian Sikhs, he had refuted the charges.
The Indian government accuses Ottawa of ignoring the actions of extremist Sikh nationalists who seek for the formation of an independent Sikh state in northern India.