India said it would stop issuing new visas for Canadians, in the latest escalation of the diplomatic feud that began after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Narendra Modi’s government of being involved in the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia.
Indian journalist Rahul Kanwal described the move as a “diplomatic ballistic missile,” saying the Modi government has gone on “all out attack mode against Canada.”• 1 The decision goes beyond the previous tit-for-tat of expelling diplomats, because it will affect any Canadian who wants to visit India and doesn’t already have a visa. Canadians were the fourth largest group to travel to India in 2021, with 80,000 tourists visiting.• 2
India said it sought action from Canada on concerns that it was acting as a safe haven for alleged terrorists, the Economic Times reported.• 3 (India had accused Nijjar of being a terrorist but has strongly denied being involved in his killing.) The narrative that Canada turns a blind eye to Sikh separatist extremists has made Trudeau “the most disliked world leader in India,” journalist Barkha Dutt writes, with frustration tracing back to Trudeau’s father, who refused to turn over a militant leader to India when he was prime minister.• 4
The Washington Post, What’s the mood in India and Canada? Two commentators on the ground weigh in.
The diplomatic row could affect the number of Indian students who study at Canadian universities, with Indian students making up 40% of the 800,000 international students in Canada. If India discourages attending Canadian schools, it could prompt a rethinking over how much the country relies on international students for its economy and geopolitical standing. “There’s a lot of dependence on students from India,” one professor said.• 5
Meanwhile, Canada isn’t getting much backing from its most important allies in its dispute with India. The U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand — who make up the “Five Eyes” alliance with Canada — haven’t condemned India or backed its claims about Nijjar’s killing. China is the likely reason why the other countries want to maintain friendly relations with India. “India is important in Western calculations for balancing China, and Canada is not,” one expert told Al Jazeera.• 6