Friday, May 24

Tourists Caught in the Middle of India-Canada Visa Dispute

Amid escalating tensions between India and Canada, tourists from both countries are finding themselves inadvertently caught in the crossfire of a visa dispute. The diplomatic row, triggered by allegations made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regarding Indian involvement in the killing of a Khalistani separatist, has led to the suspension of visa services for Canadians in India. Meanwhile, Canada has temporarily adjusted its staff presence in India due to perceived threats. This situation has left travelers and tourists from both nations facing uncertainty and potential disruptions to their travel plans.

Following India’s announcement of suspending visa services for Canadian citizens, a Vancouver-based tourism company has been inundated with continuous calls from worried travelers. Radhika Sharma, an employee at Explore India, a company that facilitates tours to India, mentioned that prospective travelers are anxious about the implications of this ban on their upcoming travel plans.

Travelers who already possess a valid visa should not face immediate issues, but uncertainty looms for those yet to apply. This development has added to the growing concerns stemming from India’s decision, citing safety concerns for its staff, thus affecting the travel landscape for Canadian tourists bound for India.


Tourists Caught in the Middle of India-Canada Visa Dispute
Tourists Caught in the Middle of India-Canada Visa Dispute


The decision to suspend visa services for Canadian citizens was prompted by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s public accusation that India may have been involved in the murder of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil. India has strongly rejected this allegation as baseless.

Canada is one of the top five countries contributing foreign visitors to India, with over 80,000 Canadians traveling there in 2021. While the visa ban may not significantly disrupt the travel plans of many of Canada’s 1.86 million residents of Indian descent, it has raised questions about their future in India.

Those holding Indian citizenship, like Ms. Sharma, can still visit India without restrictions. Additionally, Canadian citizens with an Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card, which grants Indian nationals living abroad lifetime entry to India, remain unaffected by the visa suspension.

“The issue at hand is not related to travel to India. Individuals with valid visas and documents like OCI are still able to travel freely to India. However, the concern pertains to the incitement of violence and the creation of an environment that disrupts the operations of our high commission and consulates,” explained Arindam Bagchi, a spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

However, Ms. Sharma, who is also a student in Canada, expressed that the recent tensions between the two countries have caused her to reconsider her long-term plans.

She stated, “Many students who are planning their futures and aspire to obtain permanent residency in Canada are feeling anxious and reevaluating their decisions.”

Ms. Sharma is concerned about whether the rift might affect her ability to remain in Canada in the coming years. She also worries about potential restrictions on her visits to her family in India or their visits to Canada in the future.

Canada has a substantial Indo-Canadian population with deep connections to India. It’s a popular destination for Indians seeking to study abroad, and Indian residents are among the top immigrants in Canada.

During a news conference, Mr. Trudeau hinted that Canada wasn’t planning to respond with a similar visa move, emphasizing that he didn’t want to provoke India further with his allegations.

However, the dispute raises questions about the future economic ties between the two nations.

Hemant Shah, an Indian-Canadian who has lived in Canada for 49 years, expressed his greatest concern about the row’s impact on trade and business relations.

He noted, “There are many Canadian companies operating in India. If I were in an affected business, I’d be deeply concerned.”

At Explore India, Ms. Sharma mentioned that she has also received calls from Canadians holding visas who are wondering if it’s still safe to visit India.

She reassured people that despite any political tensions, Indians on the ground are eager to welcome Canadian tourists.

Ms. Sharma also expressed feeling safe in Canada, despite India issuing a travel advisory to its nationals, urging “utmost caution” when visiting the North American country.

We don’t want the relationship between India and Canada to sour,” Ms. Sharma emphasized. “People come here to build careers, seek opportunities, and we want to maintain harmony between the two countries.

Also read: India Stops Giving Visas to Canadians Due to Increased Problems

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