India-Canada spat casts shadow on students, travel


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Intensifying tensions between India and Canada are prompting travellers and students to reconsider their plans until the situation becomes clearer.

While consulting firms are in a wait-and-watch mode on applications for higher studies in Canada, visa applicants are postponing appointments due to concerns over potential visa rejections. “Effective immediately, we are stopping applications to Canada till more clarity emerges, and asking them to redirect to US or UK,” said Akshay Chaturvedi, founder and chief executive of Leverage Edu, which has tie-ups with banks and NBFCs to help students go abroad. “In last 24-36 hours we have seen a myriad of emotions from all categories—students in Canada, students nearing the end of process and waiting for visas, and students who were starting the process of applying to universities.”

On Thursday, BLS International, which runs India visa application centres in Canada, in an online notice said visa services are suspended indefinitely due to “operational reasons” from 21 September. The notice was subsequently taken down, but it added to the confusion. The row between India and Canada, triggered by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations that Indian agents may have had a hand in the murder of Khalistan Tiger Force chief Hardeep Singh Nijjar, led to both countries expelling top-level diplomats on Tuesday. Rising tensions have hurt the economic relationship, with Canada calling for a pause in negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA).

“The current diplomatic standoff between Canada and India will not help holiday travellers. The impact on tourism will be felt for a few months for sure till it dies down or the governments agree to settle the disputes amicably,” said Dipak Deva, chairperson of the tourism and culture committee at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and managing director of Travel Corp. of India Ltd.

According to news reports, Canada has warned that it will reduce the number of its diplomats in India over security concerns.

Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) president Rajiv Mehra said the suspension of visas for those planning travel to India will adversely impact the FTA as Cananda is a major source market for India. IATO, the apex tourism body with over 1,600 members, said clarity is needed on the status of those having required visas.

Students are also concerned as Canada is the second most popular destination for Indian students as well as immigrants, especially from Haryana and Punjab. The majority of candidates applying for work visas typically considers entry- and mid-level positions across sectors like retail, business services and manufacturing. Popular courses include science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as well as medical programmes.

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Updated: 22 Sep 2023, 12:50 AM IST


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