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India resumes visa services in Canada after row over killing of Sikh separatist

India’s embassy in Ottawa has announced that it will reopen visa services for Canadians, a move that could reduce tensions in a bitter dispute over the killing of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil.

Relations between India and Canada plunged after Justin Trudeau, the prime minister, last month publicly linked Indian intelligence to the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, allegations New Delhi called “absurd”.

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Nijjar, who advocated for a separate Sikh state carved out of India, was wanted by Indian authorities for alleged terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder.

Canada has called for India to cooperate in the investigation into his death and expelled an Indian diplomat over the affair.

New Delhi expressed outrage, and reacted by taking counter-measures such as shutting down visa services for Canadians.

“After a considered review of the security situation that takes into account some of the recent Canadian measures in this regard, it has been decided to resume visa services,” the Indian high commission said in a statement on Wednesday.

Canada announced last week it had withdrawn 41 diplomats from India as a result of the row.

New Delhi was about to revoke diplomatic immunity for all but 21 of Canada’s diplomats and their families, forcing Ottawa to pull out the others.

The Indian government had also advised its nationals not to travel to parts of Canada “given the increase in anti-Indian activities”.

Nijjar, who immigrated to Canada in 1997 and became a Canadian citizen in 2015, was shot dead by two masked assailants in the parking lot of a Sikh temple near Vancouver in June.

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Canada is home to about 770,000 Sikhs, who make up about 2% of the country’s population, with a vocal minority calling for creating a separate state called Khalistan.

The Sikh separatist movement is largely finished within India, where security forces used deadly force to put down an insurgency in the state of Punjab in the 1980s.

Hundreds of Sikh protesters rallied outside Indian diplomatic missions in Canada last month, burning flags and trampling on pictures of the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi.