In a surprising turn of events, India has partially resumed visa services for Canadian nationals, marking a glimmer of hope in the ongoing diplomatic feud between the two nations. A month ago, New Delhi suspended visa services for Canadians, leaving families, businesses, and students caught in the crossfire.
Impact on Families and Businesses
The suspension of visa services had a significant impact on Canadians planning to travel to India. Particularly those with family ties and weddings. Local businesses, heavily reliant on spending from non-resident Indians (NRIs) during this season, bore the brunt of the disruptions.
Chaos for Students
The diplomatic standoff escalated when India expelled 41 Canadian diplomats in retaliation, prompting Ottawa to halt visa and consular services in Mumbai, Chandigarh, and Bengaluru. This left the Delhi High Commission as the sole option for Canadians, causing confusion and delays for students who were anxious about securing visas to study in Canada.
Amidst this turbulence, Canada consistently called for a more measured approach to resolving the matter, emphasizing India’s importance as a strategic partner. On October 26, India announced that it would resume visa services for Canadian nationals in four categories: entry visa, business visa, medical visa, and conference visa, providing some relief to those affected. Notably, tourists and e-visas remain excluded.
Canada’s Visa Processing Challenges
The ongoing crisis has led to a backlog of visa applications for Indians seeking to travel to Canada. The Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is now expected to process only 20,000 visas by December, down from the initial estimate of 38,000. With just five IRCC members remaining in India to process applications on the ground, delays have become inevitable. However, 89% of India’s visa applications are processed globally, mitigating some of the impact.
The diplomatic standoff between India and Canada has drawn the attention of the United States, which finds itself in a delicate position as it navigates its relationships with both nations. As a NATO ally and Five Eyes intelligence-sharing member, Canada holds a crucial role in U.S. foreign policy. Meanwhile, India is emerging as a strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific region to counterbalance China.
Washington has expressed concerns about Canada’s diminishing diplomatic presence in India, and the next steps will depend on the evidence presented during the investigation. However, it is likely that the Biden administration will seek to maintain diplomatic relations with India, given historical precedents where similar incidents did not lead to the complete isolation of nations.
In a complex diplomatic landscape, the resumption of visa services for Canadians offers a ray of hope and the potential for diplomatic resolution. Students, families, and businesses affected by the standoff are eagerly watching for further developments in this ongoing saga.