Toronto, May 28 (IANS) Canada kept mum Thursday to India’s threat to take retaliatory action for denial of visas to its serving and retired Indian security officials by the Canadian high commission in New Delhi.
However, Indo-Canadian groups reacted angrily to the development, blaming it on the ‘anti-India bureaucracy’.
‘It is the department of immigration and citizenship that is responsible for issuing visas. I have asked them and they will get back to you later today,” Canadian foreign affairs spokesperson Lisa Monette told IANS.
But there was no response by Citizenship and Immigration Canada headed by minister Jason Kenney who visited India in January.
When contacted, Deepak Obhrai, who is parliamentary secretary to foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon and the highest-ranking Indo-Canadian in the current government, said, ‘I am out of the country. (immigration) Minister Jason Kenney will comment.”
Even as Canada was mum on the issue, the Canada-India Foundation called the denial of visas to Indian security officials ‘a systemic anti-India bias by the Canadian bureaucracy.’ However, it urged India not to react ‘disproportionately.’
The CIF, which serves as an advocacy group for the Indo-Canadian community, said the alleged bias of the Canadian bureaucracy should not be misconstrued as the policy of this country’s government.
‘The Canadian government is not against India. It wants deeper and better relations with India. But the problem is the bureaucracy which has the old anti-India mindset of 15 or 20 years ago,” Canada-India Foundation national convener Aditya Jha told IANS.
Jha, who at a recent Canadian senate panel hearing described the the Canadian High Commission in India as ‘the second fort, after Red Fort in Delhi” because of its alleged inaccessibility and advocated appointment of non-bureaucrats as envoys, said, ‘This news has made it very clear that a systemic bias against India persists in the Canadian bureaucracy.”
But ‘this government – from the PM to his ministers – thinks highly of India and eagerly wants to engage with New Delhi. We are witness to this,”Jha said.
Defending Indian security forces, he said, ‘Terrorism – from within and outside – is the number one problem for India and it doesn’t want anyone to interfere in its sovereignty. Even here we have a small number of people with extreme views about India getting unnecessary attention from political parties.
‘The recent example is the visit of minister Kamal Nath. It sends a very negative message to India. But New Delhi should not react disproportionately to the new development.’
Kam Rathee, president and CEO of the Canada-India Education Council (CIEC), called the visa issue ‘a tempest in a teapot.”
He said, ‘While the relations between the two countries are excellent at the macro level, the problem seems to be at the micro level where Canadian visa officers may be going by the letter rather than the spirit of the law.”
Canada will be served well if its visa officers in India get training in ‘social, cultural and political correctness,” said Rathee, who played a crucial role in promoting trade ties between India and Canada as former president of the Canada-India Business Council.
He said, ‘India agencies are doing a tough job of fighting terrorism, and any misunderstanding caused by aspersions on its forces needs to be cleared up forthwith between the two prominent members of the Commonwealth.”
(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at [email protected])