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India suspends visas for Canadians over separatist leader’s death


India has suspended visa services for Canadian citizens as tensions rise over the killing of a Sikh separatist leader on Canadian soil.

The move comes after Canada announced it was investigating allegations linking India to the murder, prompting India to angrily reject the claims.

“Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” read a message from India’s mission posted on the BLS website, the visa service provider.

India’s foreign ministry declined to comment, directing inquiries to the BLS website.

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The diplomatic rift has been intensifying for months, and this latest development marks a new low in relations between the two nations.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concerns that “agents of the government of India” might be involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen.

India had designated Nijjar a terrorist in 2020, and he was shot dead in his vehicle by masked gunmen outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia on 18 June.

Trudeau emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating that “any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”

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India swiftly rejected the allegations, accusing Canada of attempting to divert attention from Khalistani terrorists and extremists sheltered within its borders.

The Khalistan movement, seeking a separate Sikh homeland, was most active in India during the 1980s but has waned in influence within India.
However, it remains a cause championed by some in the Sikh diaspora in countries like Canada, Australia, and the UK.

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Canada is home to a significant Sikh population and has witnessed pro-Khalistan protests and demonstrations in recent years.

This diplomatic row has seen previous signs of strain, with India raising a formal complaint about the safety of its diplomats in Canada earlier this year.

As the dispute continues to escalate, Canada is reducing the number of its diplomats in India due to security concerns.

Meanwhile, India’s suspension of visa services for Canadians adds another layer to the ongoing tensions between the two nations.