M A I N   N E W S

Post-regret, Canada has little new to say
Enigmatically silent on whether it will reconsider the cases
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

Status quo: BSF trooper

A disappointed Pandher said he had neither heard anything fresh from the Canadian authorities nor from the Government of India on his visa application. “I understand Canada has apologised for its comments. But as an individual, I still feel insulted for their remarks against the BSF…I have been denied visa for serving the BSF. The least they could have done was to send me a copy of their minister’s statement.” Gen Bahia, member of the Armed Forces Tribunal in Chandigarh, however, declined to comment.

New Delhi, June 5
Despite Ottawa’s expression of regret for casting aspersions on Indian security agencies while denying visas to Indians associated with these institutions, Canada is maintaining an enigmatic silence on whether it proposes to reconsider their visa applications.

When contacted by The Tribune, the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi was quite evasive on the queries posed with regard to the recent denial of visas to Lt Gen (retd) A S Bahia and former BSF personnel Fateh Singh Pandher, who feel frustrated that they cannot go to Canada to meet their near and dear ones. Simon Cridland, the spokesman for the Canadian High Commission, said he was forwarding the queries to the Citizenship and Immigration Department in Canada, notwithstanding the fact that all visa applications from North India are assessed by visa officers at the mission in New Delhi and the Canadian Consulate in Chandigarh.

Subsequently, in an e-mail response, Kelly Fraser, media relations advisor at the immigration department, forwarded the recent statement of Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in which he deeply regretted the recent incident in which letters drafted by public service officials during routine visa refusals to Indian nationals had cast false aspersions on the legitimacy of work carried out by Indian defence and security institutions.

The Canadian official also forwarded the statement made by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to say that the visa row between India and Canada was a ‘closed chapter’ after Minister Kenney’s statement. The official, however, side-stepped the query on whether the visa applications of Bahia and Pandher would be given a fresh look.

Indian officials said the visa issue would be taken up by India at some level with the Canadian authorities when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Canada towards the end of this month for the G-20 summit.

“We have no problem with the visa process followed by the Canadian mission and the details they seek…after all it is their prerogative to decide who should be given and who should not. The problem arises when they question the validity of our institutions established under an act of Parliament,” an Indian official said, asking if the Canadians would tolerate such an action by India.

The official was, however, quick to point out that Canada had realised its folly in calling the BSF a “notoriously violent force’ while denying visa to Pandher and charging Rashtriya Rifles with committing human rights violation in Jammu and Kashmir while refusing visa to army Gen Bahia. “Minister Kenney’s statement was obviously aimed at cooling down tempers in India ahead of the PM’s visit to Canada… the Canadians naturally did not want the visa issue to cloud the visit during which the two countries are also scheduled to sign a landmark civil nuclear deal,” he added.

Both the Home Ministry and foreign office are also not comfortable with some of the questions posed by the Canadian authorities to applicants with military background who are required to fill a special form, which asks for their past service record, right from the rank and title to the roles performed by them in their unit.





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