India on Thursday suspended visa services in Canada, scaling up its diplomatic tension with Ottawa over the killing of a Canadian Sikh leader.
“Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” the Indian private agency BLS hired for initial scrutiny of visa applications of Canadians said on its website Thursday.
The suspension came after the Indian government’s advisory on Wednesday, warning its citizens in Canada against travelling to areas that are prone to anti-India activities.
On Monday Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat for his alleged involvement in the assassination of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
India reacted by expelling a senior Canadian diplomat on Tuesday, citing the Indian government’s growing concern over the interference of Canadian diplomats in India’s internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities.
So far none of Canada’s closet allies has publicly criticized the Indian government after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the parliament on Monday that national security agencies were investigating “credible allegations” that the “agents of the government of India” could be involved in the killing of the prominent Canadian Sikh leader.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson told reporters the trade talks with the Indian government “will continue as before” on Tuesday.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told the press on Tuesday that Britain would “listen very, very carefully to the serious concerns that have been raised by Canada,” without mentioning India.
The Washington Post on Tuesday reported that Trudeau tried to push for a joint statement among its closest allies in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing nations including the United States, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, to condemn India prior to last week’s Group of 20 summit in New Delhi, yet was turned down by the United States and others.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has denied such claims. Canadian Foreign Ministry also denied the claims but confirmed that Trudeau did raise the issue to U.S. President Joe Biden and Sunak this week following his Monday statement in the Canadian parliament.
Kirby said the United States was “deeply concerned,” wanted the matter to be handled in a “transparent” way, and encouraged Indian officials to cooperate in any investigation, in an interview with U.S. media on Wednesday. India rejected the idea it was involved in the murder.
Anonymous official sources said that Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will further clarify India’s position during his visit to New York on Saturday to attend the UN General Assembly, and then possibly pay a bilateral visit to Washington D.C. after his address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, according to Indian media.
Jaishankar has met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and briefed him on the developments related to Canada, Indian media reported.
Nijjar had been a prominent advocate of the Khalistan movement, which seeks to establish an independent homeland for the Sikh community in India’s northwestern Punjab region. Nijjar was killed outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple in Surrey, Canada’s British Columbia, on June 18.