Indian officials told The Hindu that the Canadian letter, signed by Eric Verner, First Secretary (Immigration) in the Canadian High Commission in Delhi was an affront to the country and the government and that a serious view had been taken of it at the highest levels.
The Canadian government's decision to deny a former BSF constable a permanent visa on the grounds that the Border Security Force - from which he retired in 2000 - is a "notoriously violent paramilitary unit - engaged in systematic attacks on civilians" has vitiated relations with Ottawa barely weeks before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is due to visit Canada.
"I received a letter from the Canadian High Commission on December 8 last year informing me that my visa application has been rejected. It said that visa was being denied to me since I was a member of the BSF, which it accused of committing crimes against humanity", Fateh Singh Pandher, now in his late sixties, told The Hindu on Friday on phone from Ludhiana.
The former BSF constable said that he, along with his wife, had visited Canada in 2005 for six months and then returned home. "Since one of my daughters is settled in Canada, I and my wife also wanted to live with her and applied for permanent visa in 2008 but in 2009 my application was rejected because of my former employment in the BSF," he said.
Mr. Pandher said that he took up the matter with the BSF headquarters, which later drew the attention of the Home Ministry and Ministry of External Affairs to it.
Indian officials told The Hindu that the Canadian letter, signed by Eric Verner, First Secretary (Immigration) in the Canadian High Commission in Delhi was an affront to the country and the government and that a serious view had been taken of it at the highest levels. "The decision to grant or deny a visa is Canada's sovereign right", an official said but "they have no right to pass this kind of judgment on the BSF, which is one of our border guarding security forces".
Though the letter to Mr. Pandher was sent last December, it was only brought to the notice of the government recently.
"We are not keeping quiet about this", an official said, adding that the issue had already been taken up with Canada. There was added sensitivity because the Prime Minister is due to visit Toronto for G-20 summit in June.
On the record, all that the MEA spokesperson was prepared to say was "the matter has come to the attention of the Ministry and has been appropriately taken up with the Canadian side."
The Canadian letter told Mr. Pandher that he was being denied a visa "because there is reason to believe you are a member of the inadmissible class of persons" involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity. It noted that he had been a part of the BSF from 1975 to 2000, and that one-third of the force is deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. Citing "open source research", it said the "notoriously violent" BSF has been engaged in "systematic attacks on civilians and in systematically torturing suspected criminals".
The letter said Mr. Pandher had "admitted" being aware of the fact that the BSF was responsible for committing crimes against humanity "as you had read about it in the newspaper". But since he had not disassociated himself from the BSF despite being aware of these crimes, he was an accomplice and was thus ineligible to enter Canada.