Signs of thaw

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Signs of thaw

Friday, 27 October 2023 | Pioneer

Signs of thaw

India resumes some visa services in Canada even as New Zealand joins the anti-India chorus

In a significant diplomatic development, India has announced the resumption of a few of its visa services for Canadians, marking a possible turning point in a high-profile dispute that has strained bilateral relations. As per the Indian Embassy in Ottawa, it has resumed visa services for Canadians from yesterday, a move aimed at de-escalating tensions between the countries. This must come as a relief to many Canadians of Indian origin who frequently visit their native country. However, for now, only a few visa categories have been allowed --- health, business conference, etc --- but it opens up the possibility of normalising bilateral ties. The decision to open up the visa process comes on the heels of Canada's decision to recall 41 of its 62 diplomats from India. Canada was forced to prune its team in India after the latter's warning of stripping the Canadian diplomats of their immunity which, Canada argued, violated the Vienna Convention. The Indian Government has now relented a bit to ease the situation. The problem escalated after Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly accused "Indian agents" of involvement in the murder of its national and Khalistan sympathiser Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a claim that India vehemently rejected.

To date,Trudeau has not shared any proof of Indian involvement in Nijjar’s killing. With the backing of the western countries (especially the Five Eyes alliance), however, he stands emboldened on his allegations. Also, taking a cue from the US, other countries such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand have criticised India's decision to expel 41 Canadian diplomats or potentially revoke their diplomatic immunity. New Zealand, as a member of the Five Eyes intelligence network to weigh in on this matter, has invoked the Vienna Convention governing diplomatic relations. To put things in perspective, Nijjar was a vocal advocate of Khalistan, a proposed Sikh state carved out of India, a stance that put him on the radar of Indian authorities who sought him on charges of terrorism. India has been asking Canada to check anti-India activities from its soil but so far they have not been heeded to. Nijjar was found murdered near a gurudwara in Canada. India denied any role and assured the Canadian agencies of full cooperation but Canada took the unprecedented step of expelling an Indian diplomat. India took counter measures, including the suspension of visa services for Canadians. The visa services resumption is a positive step towards easing tensions and fostering diplomatic relations between the nations. Both India and Canada need to engage in diplomatic dialogue and cooperation to address the concerns surrounding the Nijjar case and work towards a resolution that respects international law and diplomatic norms; otherwise, common people would suffer, especially students and old people who are waiting eagerly for this issue to be resolved.

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