The denial of visa by the Canadian High Commission to the serving and retired Indian military, intelligence and security officials in the last few months has become big news for our media. The Indian government has rightly made a strong protest. After remaining silent for a few days, the Canadian Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, said in a statement that his country has the highest regard for India, its government institutions and processes.
“Furthermore, at a time when global security continues to be a cause for concern, Canada values the increasing ties and cooperation with India in the fields of defence, security and counter-terrorism,” the minister said adding that the language or the “inaccurate impression it has created” in no way reflects the policy or position of the government of Canada.
But those whose visas have been rejected were not any Tom, Dick and Harry but serving and retired officials of country’s highest institutions. They included retired deputy director of Intelligence Bureau, S S Sidhu and other army bigwigs. His visa has been rejected on the plea that his past job was with an organisation that was involved in terror activities and his visit could be a threat to the people of Canada.
Lt Gen A S Bahiya’s and his wife’s applications were rejected because Bahiya had served in Jammu and Kashmir. Similar plea was made to deny visa to Lt Gen O P Nandrajog. Visa of two Punjab Police officers have also been rejected.
However, the first case of denial of visa, which came to light, was that of Fateh Singh Pandher, a retired head constable of the Border Security Force. According to the Canadian High Commission, the BSF is a “notoriously violent paramilitary unit engaged in systematic attacks on civilians and responsible for torturing suspected criminals”.
Media reports suggest that it is only a tip of iceberg and there may be many more cases of rejection of visas to the Indian military, security and intelligence officials. What outraged the country most was the offensive and insulting remarks made by the Canadian High Commission on the Indian Army, Intelligence and Border Security Forces.
After the media storm the Indian government asked Canada to explain the position, which it finally did. What is strange is that Sidhu’s application was rejected twice even when the fact is that he had been to this North American country twice in the past as his son lives there. The big question is as to what prompted the Canadian government to reject the visa now when the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has somewhat improved and India has no such problem with Canada?
In fact India’s support is crucial for Canada in the G-20 meeting to be held in Toronto on June 26-27. And while regretting the language used by the High Commission, the Immigration Minister also referred to the global importance of India.
But another important issue is as to why we, as a nation and not just the government, are insisting on getting Canadian visas when that country has repeatedly been insulting our highest institutions. We should not just have sought apology from Canada for making such uncharitable remarks about our institutions, but should have advised all those officials whose applications have been rejected not to press for them anymore.
As these officials have served in the institutions where self-sacrifice is demanded, they should take their own initiative and abandon their plan to go to Canada, the country which does not like us. It would be even better if the sons or other family members of these officials come back to their homeland and in return the Indian government give them good job offer as a reward.
A self-respecting nation just does not protest the denial of visa. It is more up to the applicants, rather than the India government, who should publicly state that they are not interested in going to Canada at the cost of humiliation to the nation.
True Canadian Immigration Minister, while clarifying that his country welcomes 1,31,000 visitors and permanent residents from India every year, including many individuals from the various Indian security forces, the truth is that Canada too has a great interest in opening the gate for our migrants from India and other countries.
After all because of the aging population, not only Canada but many other western countries, are facing acute shortage of human resources and India is among the countries which supply a large number of skilled hands to it. Besides Canada, Indians are contributing greatly to all walks of life in the United States, Europe and Australia, not to speak of the Middle East and Africa.
Yet this insult of Indians and smear campaign against the country’s institutions came at the time when individuals from here are repeatedly singled out, beaten up and even killed in Australia. Even in the United States such incidents are not uncommon, though it is also true that we make only meek protest.
Human rights violation was certainly not the issue in denying them visa. Had it been so, the Canadian government would have raised it at a more appropriate level and not singled out individuals working in military, security and intelligence agencies. Not only that the High Commission made sweeping generalisation of these institutions and did not come up with any particular case of human rights violation by these individuals.
So these individuals would do a great service if they themselves refuse to go to the country, whose High Commission has rejected the visa on the plea that they were involved in terror activities and the visit could be a ‘threat’ to the people of Canada.
Not only the government, but even the individuals need to respond strongly to such a situation.