India-Canada spat casts shadow on students, travel

The escalating tensions between India and Canada have prompted both travelers and students to reevaluate their plans until the situation stabilizes.

In response to the prevailing uncertainty, consulting firms are taking a cautious approach toward processing applications for higher education in Canada. Similarly, visa applicants are delaying their appointments due to concerns over potential visa denials. Akshay Chaturvedi, the founder and CEO of Leverage Edu, an organization collaborating with banks and NBFCs to facilitate student study abroad, remarked, \”With immediate effect, we are suspending applications to Canada until there is greater clarity, and we are advising applicants to explore alternative options such as the United States or the United Kingdom. Over the past 24-36 hours, we have observed a range of emotions among various groups—students already in Canada, those in the final stages of the visa application process, and those who are just commencing the university application process.\”

In a related development, on Thursday, BLS International, the entity overseeing India\’s visa application centers in Canada, issued an online notice indicating the indefinite suspension of visa services from September 21 due to \”operational reasons.\” Although the notice was later removed, it contributed to the overall confusion surrounding the situation.

The diplomatic dispute between India and Canada, stemming from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau\’s allegations of potential Indian involvement in the assassination of Khalistan Tiger Force chief Hardeep Singh Nijjar, resulted in both countries expelling high-level diplomats on Tuesday. These escalating tensions have had adverse effects on their economic relationship, with Canada calling for a pause in negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA).

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., voiced concerns about the impact on tourism. He noted, \”The current diplomatic standoff between Canada and India is unlikely to benefit holiday travelers. The repercussions on tourism are expected to persist for several months until the situation calms down or the governments reach an amicable resolution.\”

Reports also suggest that Canada has issued warnings about reducing the number of its diplomats in India due to security concerns.

Rajiv Mehra, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), highlighted that the suspension of visas for individuals planning to travel to India would adversely affect the FTA, given Canada\’s significant role as a source market for India. IATO, the leading tourism body with over 1,600 members, emphasized the need for clarity regarding the status of individuals who already possess the required visas.

Furthermore, Indian students, particularly those hailing from Haryana and Punjab, are expressing concerns since Canada is the second most favored destination for Indian students and immigrants. Many candidates pursuing work visas typically aspire to secure entry- and mid-level positions across various sectors, including retail, business services, and manufacturing. Notable fields of study include science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and medical courses.

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