India suspended its visa services in Canada Thursday—blocking Canadians without a visa from travelling to the country—as tensions between the two countries escalate following allegations of New Delhi’s involvement in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and Sikh leader.
While the Indian High Commission in Canada has not made an official announcement, a notification announcing the suspension was added to the website of BLS International—the consultancy firm which operates India’s visa services in Canada.
The notification cites the Indian mission in Canada saying the suspension is due to “operational reasons” and will remain in effect “till further notice.”
The Indian High Commission’s website was inaccessible at the time of publishing, but it is unclear if this is linked to the suspension of services.
The suspension comes as both countries have sought increased security for their diplomatic missions and staff from each other over potential safety threats.
On Wednesday, the Indian government issued an advisory to its citizens in Canada urging them to “exercise utmost caution” due to “growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada.” Canadian Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc responded to the notification, saying: “Canada is a safe country.” Canada’s own travel advisory urges its citizens to India to “exercise a high degree of caution” in India, although this advisory has been in place for several months.
Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Parliament his country’s security agencies were pursuing “credible allegations” of links between “agents of the government of India” and the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Nijjar, a Sikh leader and Canadian citizen, had been labeled as a “terrorist” by India for supporting the separatist Khalistan movement, which calls for the creation of an independent homeland for Sikhs carved from India’s territory. Along with the allegation of the killing, the Canadian government also expelled a top Indian diplomat, who was allegedly working for India’s intelligence agency. India strongly denied involvement in the killing, calling Trudeau’s allegations “absurd and motivated.” New Delhi also retaliated by expelling a Canadian diplomat from the country, saying it was concerned about “the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities.”