India's Visa Suspension for Canadians Deepens Conflict Over Sikh Killing


November 6, 2023


Iara Kaiser

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India has suspended visa applications for Canadian nationals, marking a significant escalation in the ongoing diplomatic conflict triggered by Canada’s assertion that Indian agents were involved in an assassination on Canadian soil. Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a Canadian citizen who advocated for Sikh independence in British Columbia. Nijjar was tragically shot as he left the parking lot of the Sikh temple where he served as president in British Columbia. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died at the scene.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagch presented this suspension as a response to concerns regarding technical and security threats to the country’s high commission and consulates in Canada. During a news briefing, Mr. Bagchi claimed that these developments have disrupted operations and are currently being reviewed.

The move transpired amidst mounting tensions between India and Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had recently declared in Parliament that Canada’s intelligence services possessed information that linked the Indian government to Nijjar’s killing in British Columbia on June 18.

The Indian government has vehemently denied these allegations and instead accused Canada of harboring terrorists who seek to establish a Sikh homeland within India’s territory. As a result, diplomatic expulsions have ensued and further exacerbated the diplomatic rift.

Mr. Bagchi hinted at further expulsions of Canadian diplomats from India to maintain diplomatic parity, citing an imbalance in the number of diplomatic presences between the two countries. The Canadian public has expressed outrage at the involvement of the Indian government in an assassination carried out on Canadian soil against one of its own citizens and in response, India has issued a travel advisory warning its citizens in Canada to exercise caution due to a rise in "anti-India activities" and incidents of hate crimes.

Canada has responded by withdrawing numerous diplomats from India to ensure their safety and reported threats on social media. In an effort to avoid compromising ongoing investigations, Canada has refrained from disclosing intelligence findings and sought India’s cooperation into the inquiry.

The conflict marks an all time low in India-Canada relations, driven by India’s longstanding allegations of Western indifference toward Sikh extremism in its diaspora and Canada’s contention that its citizens possess the right to openly advocate for political causes.

As the diplomatic rift continues to evolve, the suspension of Canadian visas further exacerbates the clash between both nations.