The diplomatic tension between India and Canada, following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s remarks, has put Indian students in that country and those aspiring to study there on tenterhooks.
India had issued an advisory cautioning students travelling to Canada about the security risks it entails; also, Indian nationals living in Canada were asked to register with the consulate, in view of the tense situation. To cap it all, India has put on hold the visa process.
There are more than 300,000 Indian students in Canada, which makes it the largest international student contingent. “The escalation in tension has definitely hit us. There are already very few jobs doing the rounds, or housing options for students. Suddenly, we have to also contend with a trust deficit. Students are also staging rallies, which makes matters worse,” said Anmol Grewal, a student in Canada.
“We are definitely concerned as the Khalistan movement in Canada is massive, particularly in Brampton, Etobicoke, and the surrounding areas. No major violent incident has taken place till now but demonstrations have led to local protests,” Grewal said.
Those who propose to study in Canada are also concerned.
“I have received my admission letter from York University in Toronto and awaiting my study permit. However, I am scared the Canadian embassy may deny me a student visa. My parents are concerned as well,” said Gurpreet Singh, a student from Ludhiana.
Lavish Kumar, another student, said his consultant told him that overseas study opportunities won’t be impacted, as neither Canada nor India would want to halt this process. “My consultant assured me that there’s no need to worry,” Kumar said.
But some experts are of the opinion that students may bear the brunt of the deterioration in ties.
“Recent developments have left parents worried. Certain things should be kept above politics and education is one of them. We have advised families not to worry as, thus far, no negative impact has been seen on immigration and study visas,” said Dhaval Mehta, a career consultant based in Mumbai.
Parents are nonetheless anxious whether or not they should make the bookings, according to Mehta.
However, it is too early to make definitive statements, according to Vishal Ahoja, a Jalandhar-based study visa consultant. “Things will become clearer in the coming days. Canada can’t ignore such a substantial source of income. We need to see how both countries handle travellers’ entry at their respective borders,” Ahoja said.
Meanwhile, Ashish Madiwala, an Indian enrolled at Sheridan College, Mississauga, Ontario, said the tension has not affected international students yet.
“Parents are more concerned about our safety because of media coverage. Of course, we are anxious about our safety, but I believe we are safe here because there are so many Indians,” Madiwala said.
“However, this may have an impact on new students from India, as it will be more difficult for them to find accommodation,” he said.
“The only thing of concern is the advisory that the Indian Government has issued,” says Navdeep Singh Brar, a permanent resident of Indian origin in Canada. “We are also upset that India has put on hold all visa services. This is a major setback to our plans to travel to India for vacation,’’ he said.