Chill in India Canada ties clouds institutes academic programmes

Chill in India-Canada Ties Clouds Institute’s Academic Programmes

With India-Canada relations taking a frosty turn, the 53-year-old bi-national organisation, the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute (SICI), jointly funded by the Indian and Canadian governments with offices in Delhi and Calgary, faces an uncertain future. The chill in relations threatens to cast a shadow over SICI’s academic exchange programmes.

The impact is already visible: the abrupt suspension of visa processing services in Canada has compelled SICI to indefinitely postpone an agriculture conference in November for which it was expecting a delegation of Canadian scientists to visit India.

SICI is essentially a consortium of Indian and Canadian institutions, and is mandated by the Indian and Canadian governments to promote, facilitate and nurture academic linkages, collaborations & exchanges, research partnerships between the two countries. The 53-year old institute became bi-national in 2005 and its presidentship alternates between India and Canada.

“Getting a visa might be difficult for faculty from Canada,” Professor Pavneesh Madan, the current President — who’s a Canadian — of the Executive Council of SICI told The Indian Express on Friday.

Madan teaches Veterinary Practice at University of Guelph in Ontario and was appointed as the president of the institute earlier this year.

“We were supposed to have a conference in Coimbatore in November end, and we were hoping to carry some of our Canadian scientists with us to that meeting. It was going to be an agri-cluster meeting,” Madan said.

“Once this conflict happened, we knew that a lot of Canadian faculty would be hesitant, first of all, getting a visa might be difficult for them. And secondly, there is some kind of a rule that once there is an advisory given against a country, a lot of travel insurance companies actually do not give insurance or they charge a higher premium on the insurance. And for that reason, we had to postpone the conference for now,” Madan said.

Madan said that he was worried that a diplomatic rift might lead to a situation where SICI comes to be perceived as primarily Canadian or primarily Indian, with the risk of both nations disengaging from their support for the institute.

“It will make funding more difficult. And we are worried that we might be seen as a more Canadian institute. And then India washes its hand away while Canada sees us as an Indian institute and washes its hand away. And it might be possible that, you know, in this the SICI might fall through and just be closed forever. Who knows?,” Madan claimed.

Madan’s remarks come amidst the ongoing conflict between the two countries, which has seen both India and Canada take diplomatic measures against each other.

The Indian Government on Wednesday issued an advisory to Indian nationals and students residing in Canada, urging them to exercise “utmost caution, in view of growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada.” The advisory asked the students to register themselves on the MADAD portal, in order to facilitate better connect with the Indian High Commission, in case of any “untowardly incident”.

“Indian nationals and students from India in Canada must also register with the High Commission of India in Ottawa or Consulates General of India in Toronto and Vancouver through their respective websites, or the MADAD portal Registration would enable the High Commission and the Consulates General to better connect with Indian citizens in Canada in the event of any emergency or untoward incident,” the advisory read.

The advisory comes in the wake of the allegations by the Canadian Prime Minister about the involvement of the Indian government in the killing of wanted Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Even as the Indian government rejected the allegations, both countries expelled each other’s top diplomats. India, on Thursday, also suspended the visa services for Canadian nationals indefinitely.

“Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice. Please keep checking the BLS website for further updates,” the notification on the website of BLS—a visa consultancy firm—read.

Courtesy : The Indian Express

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