Canada has halted all in-person services at its consulates in Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chandigarh, after it withdrew 41 diplomats from India with a looming threat of New Delhi revoking their immunity amid the ongoing row over the killing of a Khalistani terrorist.
Canada said that losing immunity would have put the officials at risk.
Dozens of Canadian diplomats have left the country along with their families, amid the ongoing row as India planned to ‘unethically revoke’ their diplomatic immunity, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said.
Only 21 officials have been left behind to man Canada’s embassy and consulates in India, Joly added.
With fewer diplomatic staff, visa applicants in India can expect slower processing times for visas and immigration. A Canadian government official said the immigration and visa program would be ‘severely curtailed.’
The country has also issued an advisory for citizens travelling to India, urging them to exercise caution. ‘Exercise a high degree of caution in India due to the threat of terrorist attacks throughout the country.’
Those who need consular assistance have been urged to visit the embassy in New Delhi or reach out by phone or email.
India was the top source of permanent residents, temporary foreign workers, and international students in Canada last year.
Canada’s Immigration Minister Marc Miller has assured that they would continue to welcome Indian immigrants, but visa processing would take longer, at least in the short to medium term.
The reduction in staff would mean a backlog of 17,500 application decisions through the end of December, though it’s hoped processing will return to normal by early 2024, Bloomberg reported quoting a Canada official.
Tensions flared between India and Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged that India was involved in the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Nijjar, who India designated as a terrorist in 2020, was shot dead by masked gunmen on June 18 in British Columbia.
Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
‘Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,’ Trudeau said.
Trudeau’s remarks set off a diplomatic storm with India terming the allegations ‘absurd’ and ‘motivated.’
This was followed by both sides expelling senior diplomats and issuing travel advisories.
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