Panaji: Amid escalating tensions between India and Canada, India’s decision to stop issuing visas to Canadian citizens has led to considerable anxiety among Goans residing in Canada.
When contacted, a number of Goans were concerned that these developments would severely affect business between the two countries and travel for Goans with Canadian nationality who wanted to visit Goa, either for holidays, occasions or emergencies. Some were, however, hopeful that the crisis would be resolved sometime soon.
Blanche Da Costa, President of Quebec Goan Association (QGA), said India’s decision to temporarily stop issuing visas or accepting visa applications for Canadians due to tensions between both the Canadian and Indian Government is a very sad situation for Canadians wishing to visit India.
“It has also come to light that visa-free travel facility granted to OCI cardholders, has been kept in abeyance till prohibition on international travel of passengers from/to India is lifted. What happens in cases where it is a matter of urgency, and one must go to India? What about people who have booked their trips for the upcoming months, what will happen to them? There are no clear-cut answers as of now,” said Da Costa.
She felt the tensions between India and Canada would certainly have a huge impact on the travel and tourism industry of India, as well as people who want to visit India for various purposes.
“Some of my Goan friends here in Quebec had booked their tickets to go to a family wedding in December. Many of my friends who are retired, book their trips in advance to skip the harsh Canadian winter to enjoy 3-5 months in Goa and winter is coming soon. What will happen to their travel plans?”
“We as Canadians and OCI holders certainly hope that the Indo-Canadian relations are restored immediately so everyone can breathe easy,” Da Costa added.
Errol Francis, a retired travel executive based in Toronto, said the developments were “very disturbing.”
“It will have a huge negative impact on tourism to India, affect all the Canadian Citizens of Indian origin with close ties to India; many of them being Goans do visit Goa annually. The companies linked with handling visitors like airlines, hotels, ground operators, etc. will be financially affected. Hope the two countries can resolve this whole matter quickly,” he said.
Ashney Rebello, a celebrity chef, fashion designer and entrepreneur based in Vancouver, also felt that it would definitely affect Goans with a Canadian passport.
“This will be the case if there is an emergency back home in Goa as they all need an Indian Visa to come to India. This is a bit scary!”
Ashney Rebello feared the rift means further disruption to a trade relationship.
“Both nations have traded billions of dollars' worth of goods over the years. The current tension could eventually hit Canadian investments in India and could also affect the flow of students coming from the country to Canada. India has been the largest source country for international students in Canada.”
“Over 600 Canadian companies have established a strong presence in India. As tensions between the two nations continue to escalate, the consequences for trade, investment, and people-to-people ties remain uncertain.”
Ashney Rebello felt that while Goans in Canada will be affected in the short-term she was confident that both Canada and India would resolve their differences.
“This is definitely not permanent. I believe both countries will find a way to resolve this crisis and get back together again so that everything runs smoothly,” Rebello said.
Added Roland Francis, a financial advisor based in Toronto: “A few days ago, Goan Canadians woke up to news like no other. Who would have expected a sudden spat between two countries that had only minor irritants in their otherwise friendly relationship.”
“Canada’s Indian origin population consists of less than 4%. Of this, Sikhs comprise half, Goans one-tenth and the rest are other Indians. Goans are well respected, known for their prudent, industrious and ambitious careers and lifestyles. Most of the second generation are professionals and in other well paid job streams.”
“No matter how many tit-for-tat actions there may be in the short term, Canada and India have too many common interests to let this go on. Goans in this country are for most part Canadian citizens but retain at least in the first generation, a strong bond with India. They foresee no big problems for themselves no matter which way this wind blows,” he added.