Cutting across party lines, Punjab politicians called for an early resolution to the Indo-Canadian stalemate that has resulted in Canada pausing visa and consular services in the three centres of Chandigarh, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Malwinder Singh Kang, chief spokesperson Aam Aadmi Party, Punjab, called it a very unfortunate development. “It is very sad that visa consular services at Chandigarh , Mumbai and Bengaluru have been stopped by the Canadian government. We urge govt of Punjab to take up the matter with the Canadian government at the top priority.”
Kang said this action has a direct impact on NRIs settled in Canada and the Punjabi community in India. “Canada is like a mini Punjab in many cities, and the period from November to March sees a significant influx of NRIs visiting their home state of Punjab. This benefits Punjab both economically and in terms of strengthening the social bonds between Punjabis in India and Canada. The issue demands immediate attention without unnecessary delays.”
Sunil Jakhar, president of BJP Punjab, also called for an early resolution of the issue. Speaking with The Indian Express, he said, “We do not want our students to suffer. During Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Amritsar in the recent past, I had taken up the matter with him, suggesting that instead of stopping visa services altogether, there can be some screening when they land here so that the genuine visitors can come to India.”
Jakhar added, “No doubt, there can be some implications on the Punjabi community settled in Canada and even Punjabis here in India. But it hurts Canada as well. Over 14 lakhs of Punjabis settled in Canada are their citizens, and it is the duty of the Canadian government to relook into their actions and policies. They need to reconsider their attitude towards India. India has been demanding parity in diplomatic staffing in both countries, which is why 41 diplomats had been asked to leave by October 20.”
While cautioning that there should be no compromise on the national integrity of India, Anil Sarin, the general secretary of Punjab BJP, said he was concerned about the pause in visa and consular services.
“The cessation of visa and consular services in Chandigarh and other centers can result in certain hardships. We have taken up the matter with the union government to get it resolved diplomatically,” he said.
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Former Shiromani Akali Dal minister Daljeet Singh Cheema, also expressed his concern for the students and others wanting to visit Canada. “The actions taken by both countries are directly affecting the communities settled in the two countries. Both the governments need to find an amicable solution because our communities settled in Canada and India are suffering due to this turmoil. Many NRIs who wanted to come to India in this wedding season are unable to do so. Some cannot see their ailing family members, and many marriages are being postponed. The issue should be resolved, as the common man shouldn’t suffer.”
Sandeep Jakhar, Congress MLA who was suspended from his party last month, urged the Punjab Government to intervene. “The role of the Punjab government is crucial as they need to strongly address the issue with the Centre. It seems that CM Bhagwant Mann is indifferent to the problems of Punjabis. In my constituency, Abohar, one boy settled in Canada died a few weeks ago, and his brother had to go to Canada. It took him 10 days for all visa formalities, which otherwise only takes two days. The Mann government should call an all-party meeting on this issue if they are concerned about the interests of Punjabis.”
Raman Balasubramaniam, spokesperson of Punjab Congress, stated, “The party’s stance remains the same as in the past. The outcome affects the social, emotional fabric of Punjab, apart from the economic implications. Many functions have been postponed in Punjab due to visa restrictions imposed by India earlier, and now the consular services have been halted in Chandigarh. This should be resolved as soon as possible.”