Nazir Karnai woke up on Wednesday to the news he’s been waiting two months to hear: Canadians can apply online for tourist visas to India once again.
“It was such a relief,” the president of Explore India Journeys said on his way to what he anticipated would be a busy day at the Vancouver-based travel agency.
“Every day people were checking, ‘Did you hear anything? Did you hear anything?'”
India’s high commission in Ottawa confirmed on social media that the decision took effect as of Wednesday. The reversal comes two months after India stopped processing visas at its Canadian missions, and for Canadian citizens abroad.
In September, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in the House of Commons that Canada’s intelligence services had what he called credible information about “a potential link” between India’s government and the killing of Canadian Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The 45-year-old was shot by masked gunmen outside a Surrey, B.C., gurdwara in June in what police said was a targeted killing.
The Indian government had accused Nijjar of being linked to terrorism, but it has also denied involvement in his death, calling the allegations absurd. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited India earlier this month, urged New Delhi to work with Canadian officials investigating Nijjar’s death. Trudeau has publicly made the same request.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday that he was happy to hear the ban had ended.
“It shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” he said. “It’s encouraging news for people (who) are looking to travel.”
Miller declined to speculate about why India had stopped processing Canadians’ visas on Sept. 21, saying he knows only what New Delhi has said publicly. It had argued that diplomats in Canada could not safely get to work. India’s worries about Sikh separatist groups in Canada have long strained the relationship between the two countries, despite maintaining strong defence and trade ties. India had previously accused Canada of harboring separatists and terrorists.
Last month, Canada recalled 41 of its 62 diplomats in India after New Delhi warned it would strip their diplomatic immunity — something Canadian officials said was a violation of the Geneva Convention. In late October, India began easing the visa restrictions, resuming business, medical and conference visas as well as entry for people with family ties in India.
That entry visa was restricted to “persons of Indian origin” or their spouses or children. There had been uproar online from Canadians who were unable to visit relatives during the country’s wedding season, which began in November. Restrictions remained in place for tourists, students, journalists and missionaries until Wednesday.
Karnai said about 70 per cent of his clients did not have a visa for their upcoming trips.
“I’m also happy for both countries, Canada and India, you know it’s a great start,” he said, adding that during a recent visit to India he got the impression that “nobody knows about this visa thing.”
Karnai said many of his clients are planning to attend weddings this winter.
“We’ll be calling people and we’ll be letting them know that now they can pack their suitcases,” he said.
Source: Airdrie City View