India’s embassy in Ottawa has announced the reopening of visa services for Canadian citizens, marking a potential step towards easing tensions in a bitter dispute related to the killing of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil.
In recent developments, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s public linkage of Indian intelligence to the death of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar had strained relations between India and Canada, with New Delhi strongly refuting these allegations as “absurd.”
Nijjar, a proponent of a separate Sikh state independent from India, had been sought by Indian authorities for his alleged involvement in acts of terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder.
Canada has urged India to cooperate in the investigation into Nijjar’s death and had expelled an Indian diplomat in connection with the matter. New Delhi, in response, had suspended visa services for Canadian nationals.
The Indian High Commission, after a comprehensive security assessment that considered recent Canadian measures, has decided to resume visa services, as stated: “After a considered review of the security situation that takes into account some of the recent Canadian measures in this regard, it has been decided to resume visa services.”
In response to the dispute, Canada had withdrawn 41 diplomats from India, and India had been on the brink of revoking diplomatic immunity for all but 21 of Canada’s diplomats and their families, prompting Ottawa to withdraw the remaining personnel.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who had immigrated to Canada in 1997 and obtained Canadian citizenship in 2015, was fatally shot by two masked assailants in the parking lot of a Sikh temple near Vancouver in June.
The Indian government also issued advisories against its nationals traveling to certain parts of Canada due to the reported increase in anti-Indian activities.
Canada is home to a significant Sikh population of around 770,000, constituting approximately two percent of the nation’s total population. Within this community, a vocal minority advocates for the establishment of a separate state known as Khalistan.
While the Sikh separatist movement in India has largely subsided, India had previously employed lethal force to quell an insurgency in the state of Punjab during the 1980s.
In response to the dispute, hundreds of Sikh protesters staged rallies outside Indian diplomatic missions in Canada last month, involving the burning of flags and the desecration of images of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.