Visa Row With Canada Far From Over

By M Rama Rao & Atul Cowshish
Despite its massive geographic spread, the North American country of Canada is no great power and has lesser influence on world politics than some countries much smaller in size. But the rulers of that country, which like its equally big-sized neighbour, the US, has battered the natives to near oblivion to make room for the white settlers, continue to imagine that they carry the white man’s burden.

Denigrating countries like India comes easy for the Canadians because they do not protest at the many instances of racially-motivated Canadian insults directed at them. India is content to express its ‘disappointment’ or ‘regret’, and accept an occasional regret after a spat like the latest visa row, but is not ready to do something to shake Canada up.

A spate of visa rejections for Indians has obviously been an act of deliberate insult by the Canadians. The incensed people in the country would have felt better if there was some retaliatory action, the least of which should have been declaring the offensive Canadian diplomat, who sent a nasty and very un-diplomatic visa rejection note to a former BSF soldier, persona non grata and thrown out of the country.

It now transpires that the Canadians, more specifically their foreign ministry and their high commission in Delhi, have been heaping grave insults on India on a regular basis at least since 2008 while rejecting the visa applications. About 10 cases of visa rejection of former or serving officers and soldiers of the Indian security and intelligence establishment have come to light so far.

The issue is not refusing visa to an Indian. It is certainly for Canada to decide the fate of visa applications its mission receives. The problem arises when objectionable and specious grounds are offered in rejecting the visas. The worst part is compounding it by making uncalled for remarks about Indian organisations and institutions.

The Canadian idealists have used highly deplorable language for the Indian Army, Indian para-military organisations and the intelligence services, calling them variously as ‘notoriously violent’ or known to be involved in ‘systematic attacks on civilians’. With some questionable prescience, the Canadians have said that the Indian ex-spooks were denied visa because they will resume their cloak and dagger activities the moment they land on the placid and sacred Canadian soil!

Being inhabited by white angles, barring the browns and blacks imported to supplement the country’s paltry white workforce, the Canadians think an Indian who has once been a spy will always be a spy. Of course, their own spook’s covert activities are confined to spreading the gospel.

The Canadian arrogance had reached the stage where visa was also denied to an Indian who was deputed to Ottawa to oversee arrangements for the visit in late June of Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh to attend the G-20 summit. Unfortunately, the pusillanimous Indian government kept quiet about it.

Somewhat surprisingly, the first instance of the rejection of Canadian visa to an ex employee of a security agency, a former head constable of the Border Security Force in this case, came to light only recently, over a year after he had applied for it. The other instances came to light subsequently. In each of these cases the grounds for the rejection of the visa were obnoxious and arbitrary. The interesting thing is that in some of these cases, the person concerned had actually made previous visits to Canada but the rejection slip came when the person wanted to go to Canada for a longer stay because their children were settled there.

Regretfully, though not surprisingly, the reaction of the government of India to these insults by the Canadians was meek, when it should have been full of punches and a telling diplomatic action. To begin with India could announce that it was no longer keen on any ‘big ticket’ purchase from Canada and deny Canada the opportunity to expand business here. India has a bitter experience of purchasing fuel for its nuclear reactor from Canada and there is no reason why Canada should be encouraged to believe that it is in the race for supplying further reactors to India.

The external affairs ministry took ‘serious’ note of the disrespectful, disparaging and gratuitous remarks made by the Canadian mission. But taking ‘note’ is hardly a befitting reply. In contrast recall how Canada has in the past always been quick to ‘punish’ India.

The Canadian ground for preventing certain Indians from visiting their country looked all the more untenable when, as reported in the media, the offensive remarks against India were reproduced from reports by an organisation that is nothing but a vehicle for political propaganda that has been kept alive for specific purposes in the post-Cold War era, the Amnesty International.

An assigned task of this US-sponsored group was to run down Communism and the Soviet Union and preside over their liquidation. That task completed, albeit odiously, it should have either shut shop or at least tried to shed its myopic vision of the world outside the American sphere of influence and not work to meet the political agenda of the US and its ‘poodles’ like Canada.

The Canadians and the Amnesty hold an organisation like the BSF as being responsible for all manner of human rights violations in areas of conflict in India but they hail whatever the uninvited and un-welcomed American and Nato (that includes Canadian) forces do in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. The treatment of prisoners in a Cuban territory under American occupation is probably exemplary by the wonky Canadian standards.

Does Canada refuse admission to the personnel who serve in the American and European forces? That will be unthinkable for the Canadian preachers of human rights sermons.

The Canadians know that a fighting force does not become a habitually ‘violent’ force when it obeys orders of democratically elected governments while dealing with hostile elements, including well armed and trained secessionists backed by avowedly inimical neighbours so endearingly patronised by countries in the West, including Canada.

The Canadians have never and will never stop a serving or retired US or European military or intelligence personnel from visiting their country. In fact, some of the Caucasian population settled in Canada traces their origin to the people who took part in the extermination of one section of the German population. Canada can probably admit its sense of shame even now if it decides to expel these people or their descendants who now undoubtedly are called evangelical Canadians.

It is probably a sample of Canadian sense of humour that its diplomats think that if allowed in the former employees of Indian intelligence agencies can restart ‘espionage’ activities in Canada. What will they spy upon? The divide between the French and the English speaking Canadians is too well documented to engage attention of any past or present Indian spook. The governments outside Canada know all about the discontent among the natives and how they have been deprived of their rights. The world has decided to ignore it—because the Canadians are such wonderful champions of human rights.

As pointed out at the outset, Canada has quietly slipped into damage control mode to let the visa row blow over. The Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney has expressed deep regret over foul language used by the High Commission officials in Delhi. ‘This language, or the inaccurate impression it has created, in no way reflects the policy or position of the Government of Canada,’ said Kenney in Ottawa. He also hailed the Indian defence and security institutions, saying they operate “under the framework of democratic processes and the rule of law”. Graciously accepting the regrets, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said India treats the matter a ‘closed chapter’.

But Kenney doesn’t answer the questions: Are the Canadian diplomats unaware of the democratic moorings of India? How could they use foul language against India while posted on Indian soil?

We need satisfactory answers to these and related questions. Until then, it will be difficult to believe that there would be no recurrence of visa row in another format. Also to allow the issue as closed. (Syndicate Features)

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