Skift Take

The suspension of visa services for one of India's biggest inbound markets poses a considerable challenge to the country's tourism industry, especially when it occurs just before the peak tourism season.

Amidst the escalating diplomatic tensions between India and Canada, India has now suspended the issuance of visas to Canadian citizens “until further notice.”

BLS International, a private agency responsible for the initial screening of visa applications, released a notification stating, “Important notice from the Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, Indian visa services have been temporarily suspended, effective from September 21, 2023. Please monitor the BLS website for updates.”

The notification on BLS International’s website.

This suspension of visa services is the latest development in the ongoing India-Canada standoff, which began with Ottawa’s assertion of “credible allegations” linking India to the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, leader of the separatist organization Khalistan Tiger Force.

Nijjar was killed in Canada on June 18. India has denied these allegations, with the Ministry of External Affairs dismissing them as “absurd” and “motivated.”

In response, Canada expelled a senior Indian diplomat, reportedly identified as Pavan Kumar Rai, who headed India’s foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), in Canada.

India reciprocated by expelling a senior Canadian diplomat with a five-day notice to leave the country. Additionally, Canada canceled a trade mission to India that had been scheduled for October.

The connection between the visa suspension and this diplomatic row remains unclear at this time.

In 2019, Canada was the fifth largest tourism source market for India. The suspension of visa services comes right before the country’s peak season for inbound tourism, which falls between October-March.

Travel Advisories

On a related note, India, on Wednesday, issued a warning to Indian nationals in Canada, particularly students, advising them to exercise extreme caution due to what it described as “growing anti-India activities” and politically sanctioned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada.

This advisory appears to be a response to Canada’s travel advisory issued on Tuesday, which cautioned its citizens to be vigilant when traveling to the violence-prone northeastern state of Manipur, as well as to take precautions against natural disasters and Covid-19.

The majority of the Canadian advisory remains unchanged, including warnings against travel to the northeast, the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir, and border areas of Pakistan.


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Tags: asia monthly, canada, india, politics, travel advisories, visa

Photo credit: India has suspended issuing visas to Canadian citizens. Henry Thong / Unsplash

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