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India eases visa ban on Canadian nationals

India on Wednesday announced an easing of its visa ban on Canadian nationals imposed more than a month ago after Canada alleged that India was involved in the assassination of a Sikh separatist in Canada.

India announced that it will resume services for entry, business, medical and conference visas starting Thursday, according to a press release issued by the Indian High Commission in Ottawa. Emergency services will continue to be handled by the Indian High Commission and the consulates in Toronto and Vancouver, it said.

Wednesday’s announcement could ease tensions between the two countries.

A diplomatic spat erupted between them after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar in suburban Vancouver in western Canada. Nijjar was a 45-year-old Sikh activist and plumber who was killed by masked gunmen in June in Surrey, outside Vancouver.

For years, India had said that Nijjar, a Canadian citizen born in India, had links to terrorism, an allegation Nijjar denied.

Canada did not retaliate against India's halting the issuing of new visas for Canadian nationals. India previously expelled a senior Canadian diplomat after Canada expelled a senior Indian diplomat.

India has accused Canada of harboring separatists and “terrorists,” but dismissed the Canadian allegation of its involvement in the killing as “absurd.”

The Indian easing of the visa ban Wednesday came days after Canada said it was recalling 41 of its 62 diplomats in India. That decision came after Canada said New Delhi warned it would strip their diplomatic immunity — something Canadian officials characterized as a violation of the Geneva Convention.

The Indian government last week rejected any notion that it violated international law in asking Canada to recall diplomats so that both governments have roughly the same number stationed in each country.

India had not publicly stated it would withdraw diplomatic immunity from the Canadian diplomats, nor did it give a deadline for their departure. But it said it wanted Canada to reduce its number of diplomats in India to match the amount that India has in Canada.

“Resolving differences requires diplomats on the ground,” Matthew Miller, a Canadian State Department spokesman, said in a statement last week. “We have urged the Indian government not to insist upon a reduction in Canada’s diplomatic presence and to cooperate in the ongoing Canadian investigation.”

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