Amid the ongoing dispute between India and Canada, India has issued a call for Canada to balance its diplomatic presence to align with the number of Indian officials in Canada. However, this significant reduction in diplomatic personnel may have repercussions on Canadian visa services for Indian applicants.
India has set a deadline of October 10, 2023, for Canada to downsize its diplomatic presence to match the count of Indian diplomats stationed in Canada. Experts anticipate that such a substantial reduction in diplomatic staff will lead to longer processing times for Indian citizens seeking visas to travel to Canada.
Historically, Canada has maintained a substantial diplomatic presence, with a High Commission in New Delhi and Consulate Generals in Bengaluru, Chandigarh, and Mumbai. This presence was primarily to manage the high volume of visa applications submitted by Indian nationals.
Nevertheless, following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s public and contentious allegations against India, New Delhi has demanded the withdrawal of 41 diplomats out of the 62 currently stationed in India by October 10, 2023. Failure to meet this deadline could result in the loss of diplomatic immunity for the Canadian staff in India.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly expressed concern for the safety of Canadian diplomats and stated, “We are in contact with the government of India. We take Canadian diplomats’ safety very seriously. We will continue to engage privately because we think that diplomatic conversations are best when they remain private.”
Each year, at least one lakh Indians (if not more) apply for Canadian visas. Canada ranks as the second most sought-after destination for Indian immigrants. According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, from January 2018 to June 2023, over 1.6 lakh Indians relinquished their Indian citizenship to become Canadian nationals. However, the reduction in diplomatic staff is expected to result in prolonged waiting times for visa processing and approval for Indian applicants.
The recent escalation in tensions stems from Justin Trudeau’s accusation that the Narendra Modi-led Indian government was responsible for the killing of a Canadian Sikh citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, on Canadian soil. Nijjar had been designated as a Khalistani terrorist by India in 2020 and was assassinated in the parking lot of a Gurudwara in Surrey. India vehemently denies these allegations, labeling them as “absurd and motivated.”
Consequently, both New Delhi and Ottawa have engaged in a diplomatic standoff, involving the expulsion of top diplomats and the suspension of visa services in Canada. Nevertheless, Canada has now opted for private discussions with India as an attempt to manage the escalating tensions.
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