Canada visa row: Upset India mulls action
New Delhi: Perturbed by the denial of visa to members of the Indian armed forces by ‘friendly’ Canada, the government is taking up the matter with Ontario even as it expects Canadian High Commission to tender an apology.
The overriding view in the Indian establishment is that the High Commission has triggered a potentially serious diplomatic row by transgressing the limits of propriety while rejecting visas for members of Indian security forces.
Incensed by the “high-handed” attitude of the commission, the Union Home Ministry has decided to retaliate if Canada fails to make amends within a week, reports claimed Thursday.
“By making objectionable remarks while rejecting the visa of former Intelligence Bureau (IB) official SS Sidhu, the first secretary (immigration) of the Canadian high commission S Auger has virtually challenged the Indian government,” said a report quoting Home Ministry sources.
In view of these cases, the Home Ministry has written to the External Affairs Ministry, asking it to take up the issue strongly with the Canadian High Commission.
Moreover, the Home Ministry is reportedly of the view that the Canadian High Commission should apologise, withdraw the comments and take action against the officers responsible for such behaviour.
Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao had said on Tuesday that the external affairs ministry had taken up the matter of visa denial “immediately and appropriately” with the Canadian high commission and the Canadian government.
“Of course, the Canadian foreign minister has, in a public statement, stated that Canada has the highest regard for India’s democratic institutions and processes, and also respect for India’s armed forces and related institutions. But let me once again say that we did take up the matter, we expressed our serious concern, and we continue to take this matter very seriously,” Rao said.
Three Brigadiers, IB Dy Dir denied visa
Two retired Lt Generals, three serving Brigadiers and an IB Deputy Director besides a former senior IB official have been denied visas on grounds that their organisations were engaged in violence.
The IB officer, assigned to travel to Toronto in connection with the Prime Minister's trip there next month, was later allowed to travel after protest from India.
The denial of visas, over the last two years, has angered the Home Ministry which has warned that India would also "retaliate" by disallowing Canadian officials who go to Afghanistan via this country.
Lt Gen (retd) A S Bahia, a decorated Indian military officer who is now a member of the Armed Forces Tribunal in Chandigarh, was refused visa in May this year, contending that he had served in a "sensitive location" of Jammu and Kashmir.
Bahia, who retired as the Quarter Master General (QMG) on April 30, 2006, told agency over phone that he had brought the matter to the notice of appropriate authorities.
In another revelation, two Brigadiers were denied visas in 2008 and another in 2009. A retired Lt General RN Batra was also refused visa in 2008 on the similar grounds.
SS Sidhu, a retired IB officer, was denied visa on March 26 this year, with the Canadian High Commission saying that he belonged to the "inadmissible" category of persons.
The rejection letter said he could not be given visa as he had served in an organisation like IB and that led to apprehension that he could "engage in an act of espionage or subversion", or "violence that would or might endanger the lives or safety of persons in Canada."
Sidhu termed it as a "disgusting reply from a friendly country like Canada and an insult to India."
These revelations came four days after a case of denial of visa to a retired BSF constable came to light. He had been refused visa on similar grounds.