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India Restores E-Visa Services for Canadians Amid Diplomatic Tensions Over Sikh Separatist’s Killing

The recent reinstatement of electronic visa services for Canadian nationals by India marks a significant turn in the diplomatic tensions between the two nations. This move comes after a period of strained relations following the assassination of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada, which Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau linked to possible Indian involvement. India, vehemently denying these allegations, had suspended its e-visa services for Canadians in response.

Resumption of E-Visa Services

  • Date of Resumption: Services were resumed in October, with the full spectrum of visa categories becoming available again recently.
  • Categories Included: Initially, India resumed services for entry, business, medical, and conference visas, excluding journalists, employment, tourists, students, missionaries, and film visas.
  • Application Method Change: Earlier, applications had to be made through government-appointed outsourced agencies, contrasting with the now-restored online application method.

The Diplomatic Row: Causes and Consequences

The assassination of Nijjar, a Canadian citizen of Indian origin and a known Sikh activist, became the epicenter of this diplomatic conflict. Trudeau’s allegations of India’s involvement, described by Indian officials as “absurd” and “motivated,” led to a series of retaliatory actions from both sides.

Canada’s Allegations and India’s Response

  • Trudeau’s Accusations: In September, Trudeau alleged that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in Nijjar’s killing.
  • India’s Retaliation: India reacted sharply by recalling 41 of its 62 diplomats in Canada and warning of stripping their diplomatic immunity.
  • Violation of International Conventions: Canada characterized India’s actions as a breach of the Geneva Convention.

Impact on Bilateral Relations

The disagreement has cast a shadow over the otherwise strong defense and trade ties between India and Canada. India’s concerns about Sikh separatist groups in Canada have long been a point of contention, with New Delhi accusing Canada of harboring separatists.

Security Concerns for Indian Diplomats

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s Minister of External Affairs, linked the temporary halt of visa services to the safety of Indian diplomats in Canada, citing increased harassment.

Future of India-Canada Relations

The restoration of e-visa services is a positive step towards normalizing relations. However, the upcoming virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit, where Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Modi are set to meet, albeit virtually, will be a crucial moment for both leaders to address these issues.

Jaishankar’s Stance on Allegations

Jaishankar has indicated that while India is open to investigating Canada’s claims, there has been no evidence provided to substantiate them.

Looking Ahead: Rebuilding Trust and Diplomatic Relations

The easing of visa restrictions is a step towards mending the frayed diplomatic ties, but both nations face the challenge of rebuilding trust. The upcoming diplomatic interactions, especially the virtual meeting between Prime Ministers Trudeau and Modi, will be pivotal in setting the tone for future relations.

Key Points for Future Diplomatic Engagements

  • Addressing the Allegations: Clear communication and evidence-based discussions regarding the allegations of India’s involvement in Nijjar’s murder are essential.
  • Focus on Shared Interests: Emphasizing common ground in areas like trade, defense, and cultural exchange can help in steering the relationship toward positive collaboration.
  • Transparency and Open Dialogue: Maintaining an open and transparent dialogue is crucial for resolving misunderstandings and avoiding escalation of conflicts.

Impact on the Indian and Canadian Communities

The diplomatic tension and the subsequent suspension and restoration of visa services have had a significant impact on the Indian diaspora in Canada and Canadians of Indian origin. The ease of travel and communication between the two countries is vital for maintaining cultural and familial ties.

Conclusion

The resumption of e-visa services by India for Canadian nationals is a significant development in the context of the recent diplomatic tensions between the two countries. It signifies a potential easing of relations, but the upcoming diplomatic engagements will be critical in determining the future trajectory of this bilateral relationship. For more detailed information on this topic, you can refer to The Associated Press coverage.