Arindam Bagchi, a spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, announced the move at a media briefing, saying that the decision was made in response to ‘incitement to violence [and] inaction by the Canadian authorities, and the creation of an environment that disrupts the functioning of our high commission and consulates’.
Bagchi added that the Indian government ‘will be reviewing the situation on a regular basis’.
Canada provides the fourth largest number of foreign visitors to India according to nation of origin, with 350,000 visitors in 2019, according to Indian government data.
The decision to suspend visa services comes after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that his government was investigating ‘credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India’ and the death of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June.
The Indian-born Nijjar – who held Canadian citizenship – was involved in the Khalistan movement, which aims to create an independent Sikh state in the Punjab region. Under Indian law, he was considered a ‘terrorist’ due to his affiliation with the Khalistan Tiger Force movement, which is banned in India.
Nijjar was shot dead on 18 June by two masked gunmen in the car park of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, in Surrey, British Columbia, in a suspected assassination. The Indian government has denied involvement in the incident.
No similar visa service measures have yet been imposed by Canada. If they are, it could have a substantial impact: India was the top nation of origin for legal immigrants to Canada, with over 118,000 becoming permanent residents in 2022. Additionally, 320,000 Indian students currently study at Canadian universities.
India’s life insurance sector is expected to be worth $170 billion by 2027.