While there’s been a suspension of visa services for Canadian nationals, the issuance of fresh Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards remains unaffected. Although there was initial confusion about whether recent Canadian citizens who have relinquished their Indian passports and others of Indian origin could apply for new OCI cards, a senior Indian official clarified that the suspension only pertains to visa services and not OCI services.
The suspension was implemented in response to recent turmoil in India-Canada relations and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement in the House of Commons regarding “credible allegations” of a potential link between Indian agents and the murder of Khalistani figure Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18.
In response to these developments, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi stated that India had not received any specific information from Canada. BLS International, the third-party contractor responsible for processing applications in Canada, cited “operational reasons” for the suspension of visa services, which will remain in effect until further notice.
While the External Affairs Ministry had initially indicated that OCI services would not be impacted, it remained unclear whether this applied to both current OCI cardholders and new applicants.
On Thursday, Bagchi clarified, “The question is not about travel to India. Those who have valid visas, those who have other kinds of documents like [Overseas Citizen of India cards] are free to travel to India.” He attributed the suspension of visa services to the failure of Canadian authorities to address incitement of violence against Indian diplomats, adding, “That’s what’s making us temporarily stop the issuance of visas or providing visa services.”
An official disclosed that there will be heightened scrutiny of OCI applications, especially in light of the involvement of some persons of Indian origin in Canada in pro-Khalistan activities.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asserted that the “credible allegations” regarding the potential link between Indian agents and the killing of Hardeep Nijjar had been communicated to New Delhi “weeks ago.” These allegations have led to diplomatic tensions between the two countries, including the expulsion of diplomats.
Buoyed by Trudeau’s claims, the secessionist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) has called for the shutdown of India’s mission in Canada on September 25 and the expulsion of India’s High Commissioner to Ottawa.