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Canada Regrets, India Says Visa Chapter Closed

After days of outrage here, Canada on Friday expressed "deep regret" over the foul language used by its officials against Indian security and intelligence establishments following which India treated the unpleasant chapter as closed.  In
PTI May 29, 2010 9:15 IST
PTI
After days of outrage here, Canada on Friday expressed "deep regret" over the foul language used by its officials against Indian security and intelligence establishments following which India treated the unpleasant chapter as closed.  

In a damage-control exercise, Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney hailed the Indian defence and security institutions, saying they operate "under the framework of democratic processes and the rule of law".  

Terming as "unfortunate" the incidents involving use of foul language by Canadian High Commission in visa rejection letters to some individuals, Kenney said, "This language, or the inaccurate impression it has created, in no way reflects the policy or position of the Government of Canada."  

In a statement emailed from Ottawa, he said, "The Government of Canada, therefore, deeply regrets the recent incident in which letters drafted by public service officials during routine visa refusals to Indian nationals cast false aspersions on the legitimacy of work carried out by Indian defence and security institutions, which operate under the framework of democratic processes and the rule of law."  

The comments came in the backdrop of an outrage in India over adverse comments made by Canadian High Commission officials here against Indian armed forces and intelligence establishment while rejecting visas of some senior serving and retired officials.  

Soon after Kenney expressed regrets, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said in Bangalore that Canada had realised its "mistake" and India treats the matter a "closed chapter".  

"We have received a copy of the statement made by Jason Kenny, Canadian Minister for Citizenship. He has expressed high regards for India. They have deeply regretted the recent letter drafted by low level officials on routine visa applications casting aspersions on security forces," he told reporters.  

"They told us that this language in no way reflects the policy or perceptions of Canada about India. I think they have realised their mistakes. We should consider the chapter closed," Krishna said.  

The Canadian High Commission, over the last few years, has denied visas to a number of senior serving and retired officials of the armed forces and intelligence establishment, claiming that their organisations or they themselves have served in sensitive areas like Jammu and Kashmir and engaged in violence and human rights violations.  

These adverse comments had triggered an outrage here, with the Home Ministry threatening retaliation if no corrective steps were taken by Canada within a week.  

After two days of silence from the Canadian side, the Immigration Minister said, "Canada has the highest regard for India, its government institutions and processes."  

He said, "While, under Canadian law, admissibility to Canada is determined by a number of different criteria, candidate assessments should in no way question Indian institutions which operate under the rule of law and within a democratic framework."

With regard to the visa application process, he said, decisions are made on a "case-by-case basis by non-partisan public servants following an independent process based on Canada's immigration law as it currently stands."  

The Minister said, "This unfortunate incident has demonstrated that the deliberately broad legislation may create instances when the net is cast too widely by officials, creating irritants with our trusted and valued international allies" and "for this reason the admissibility policy within the legislation is under active review at this time."  

He said Canada-India friendship as democratic nations "who operate under the rule of law grows ever stronger and we share a common bond of ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity.  

"Our economic and trade ties continue to strengthen both of our economies," he said.  

Kenney said, "Furthermore, at a time when global security continues to be a cause for concern, Canada values the increasing ties and cooperation with India in the fields of defence, security and counter-terrorism."  

He noted that each year, Canada welcomes about 131,000 Indian residents on both temporary and permanent basis, including many individuals from various Indian security forces. PTI