India has suspended visa processing in Canada, the service provider announced Thursday, September 21, in the midst of a diplomatic crisis between the two countries since Ottawa said it suspected the Indian government of being involved in the assassination of a Canadian Sikh leader in June. "Important notice from Indian mission: for operational reasons, effective September 21, 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended until further notice," BLS International, an Indian provider of outsourcing services for government and diplomatic missions around the world, said on its website on Thursday.
But shortly after the announcement was broadcast by the media, BLS removed the notice from its website. India's External Affairs Ministry had no immediate comment. On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked India to "take seriously" the case of the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and the suspicions of involvement of agents in New Delhi evoked Monday by Ottawa, which says it relies on "credible elements".
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The Indian government called the Canadian accusations "absurd" and denied "any act of violence in Canada." Diplomatic relations between Canada and India have since been at an all-time low, marked by reciprocal expulsions of diplomats. On Wednesday, India's foreign ministry expressed concern for its nationals traveling to Canada, "given the increase in anti-India activities and politically motivated hate and criminal crimes in Canada."
Recently, the threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and members of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda," the ministry added in a statement, advising its fellow citizens "to avoid traveling to potential regions and sites in Canada that have been the scene of such incidents." "Indian students in particular are advised to exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant," he said. Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead in June by two masked men in the parking lot of the Sikh temple he ran in Surrey, near Vancouver, British Columbia. He succumbed to his injuries at the scene. An activist for the creation of "Khalistan", an independent Sikh state in northern India, he arrived in Canada in 1997 and was naturalized in 2015.
He was wanted by the Indian authorities on charges of terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder. Accusations he denied, according to the World Sikh Organization of Canada, a group defending the interests of Canadian Sikhs. India has often complained about the activity of the Sikh diaspora abroad, particularly in Canada, which New Delhi says could revive the Sikh separatist movement with massive financial aid.