OTTAWA: In a significant development, India has decided to suspend its visa services for Canadians amid escalating security concerns related to Khalistani terror groups and anti-India activities in Canada. BLS International, the company responsible for managing Indian visa application centers in Canada, issued a statement on September 21, 2023, announcing the immediate suspension of Indian visa services in the country until further notice.
This decision follows the recent killing of Sukhdool Singh, also known as Sukha Duneke, a wanted Khalistani terrorist and gangster who had escaped to Canada from Punjab's Moga district. Singh was associated with the Devinder Bambiha gang and played a role in supporting anti-India activities across New Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Ottawa, Canada.
Tensions between India and Canada have been escalating, with a particular low point being Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's controversial statement linking Indian agents to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June. India vehemently rejected these claims, labeling them as "baseless" allegations. Subsequently, both countries expelled senior diplomats, escalating diplomatic tensions.
India had previously issued a travel advisory on Wednesday, cautioning Indian nationals and students against visiting Ottawa, citing the rising incidents of hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada. The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, took to social media to share the advisory and emphasized that Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community opposing vested interests had faced serious threats in Canada.
The situation took a more concerning turn when a pro-Khalistan organization known as Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) released a video message, urging Hindus residing in Canada to leave the country as soon as possible. Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, SFJ's legal counsel, made this announcement, accusing Hindus of supporting India and suppressing the speech and expression of pro-Khalistan Sikhs. The video quickly went viral on various social media platforms.
Furthermore, Pannu, a prominent member of Sikhs for Justice, was designated as a wanted terrorist by India in 2020. This development raises concerns about the activities of such organizations on Canadian soil and their potential impact on the security and stability of the region.
In response to these mounting security concerns, India has chosen to suspend its visa services for Canadians as a precautionary measure. This move aims to protect Indian citizens and diplomatic staff in Canada from potential threats posed by Khalistani terror groups and anti-India elements. The decision underscores the gravity of the situation and the importance of addressing security issues that have strained bilateral relations between India and Canada.
As this situation unfolds, diplomatic efforts will likely continue to be crucial in addressing the underlying tensions and ensuring the safety and security of all individuals involved.