India-Canada row: Visa suspension casts shadow on upcoming festive season

  • | Sunday | 24th September, 2023

AMRITSAR: The suspension of visa services for Canadians, just before the wedding and festive season in India, has triggered concern and uncertainty, especially among Punjabis in India as well as Canada.A significant number of the Indian diaspora in Canada comprises Punjabis, who often plan visits to their home country in the autumn and winter months for various purposes, including attending family weddings, spending time with their loved ones, embarking on pilgrimages tours and paying obeisance at the Golden Temple, and even considering property investments.Underscoring the potential consequences of the governments move in the wake of the escalation of tension with Canada, Navdeep Suri, former India ambassador to Egypt and the UAE and the high commissioner to Australia, said: "I believe this could precipitate a humanitarian crisis, particularly given the approaching festive, holiday and wedding season in India."Suri said in the absence of emergency travel options, and considering that a big chunk of the PIO population in Canada does not possess the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards, the situation was indeed fraught with challenges and uncertainties.Despite the Indian government, though its embassies, making repeated appeals, a significant number of individuals of Indian origin holding foreign passports are yet to obtain the OCI cards, which can significantly ease their travel and stay in India, especially in times of disruptions and challenges like the current situation, he said.Suri further said that while the government had legitimate concerns and reasons behind taking the decision, there could be emergencies or urgent travel requirements, for which a travel channel needed to be created.Travel agents in Amritsar said a large number of Punjabis in Canada had booked air tickets in advance, and were now in a tight spot.Akash Joshi of A One Travels said: "A majority of these tickets are non-refundable, and in case they dont get visas they will suffer huge losses," he said.

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