Within hours of Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau alleging that “agents of the government of India” had carried out the assassination of Sikh independence advocate Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June, the claim that the Canadian government had updated its travel advisory for India became viral on social media. It was said that Canada urged citizens to exercise a high degree of caution in India due to the threat of terrorist attacks throughout the country. It has also reportedly cautioned its citizens against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir due to the unpredictable security situation, and non-essential travel to parts of North-eastern states like Assam and Manipur owing to the risk of terrorism and insurgency.
Several media outlets linked the issuance of the travel advisory to the recent allegations levelled against the Indian government. According to the Times of India’s report on the issue, ‘this move has further exacerbated the ongoing confrontation between India and Canada’. (Archive)
Media outlet ANI, too, reported on this. “Amid worsening bilateral ties in the wake of tit-for-tat expulsions over the alleged Indian involvement in the killing of a Khalistani leader on its soil, the Canadian government on Tuesday issued a travel advisory, asking his citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution,” read the report. (Archive)
“Avoid all travel to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir due to the unpredictable security situation. There is a threat of terrorism, militancy, civil unrest and kidnapping. This advisory excludes travelling to or within the Union Territory of Ladakh,” says Canada in its… pic.twitter.com/AxV7aZ18q3
— ANI (@ANI) September 19, 2023
ANI Digital also linked the travel advisory to the diplomatic standoff between the two nations. (Archive)
Exercise high degree of caution: Canada updates travel advisory for India amid diplomatic standoff
— ANI Digital (@ani_digital) September 19, 2023
Media outlet Times Now tweeted a similar claim. (Archive)
“Exercise a high degree of caution due to the threat of terrorist attacks throughout the country”- Canada issues fresh travel advisory for India.@rishabhmpratap & @anchoramitaw share more details.#Canada #CanadaAdvisory pic.twitter.com/7WPtLcPlDs
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) September 20, 2023
Other media outlets like CNN News 18, Hindustan Times, Mint, Wion, Business Today, Economic Times, editorji, India Today, DNA, Amar Ujala, Navbharat Times, India TV, News 24 Hindi, Live Hindustan, NDTV India, Dainik Jagran and Republic Bharat also claimed that the travel advisory has further ‘ramped up’ the confrontation between the two countries over Canada’s allegations that the Indian government was involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June.
In a sarcastic jibe, India Today journalist Shiv Aroor tweeted a GIF with the caption, ‘Indian wokes when Trudeau issues travel advisory against India’ (Archive).
Indian wokes when Trudeau issues travel advisory against India pic.twitter.com/GlCsGfzRnI
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) September 19, 2023
Right Wing influencer handle @MeghUpdates tweeted the screenshot of the travel advisory. Although not a direct claim, a lot of the comments on this tweet linked the travel advisory with the recent allegations by Trudeau. (Archive)
— Megh Updates 🚨™ (@MeghUpdates) September 19, 2023
The reader must note that the government website that carries the travel advisory has clearly mentioned that the latest update on September 18 only concerned the Health section. This implies that the ‘Risk Levels’ section has not been changed recently.
The last available update before September 18, 2023, came on July 6, 2023, which also states that citizens should ‘avoid all travel to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir due to the unpredictable security situation’, exactly similar to the current advisory. It also urges citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Assam and Manipur (owing to the risk of terrorism and insurgency) and avoid all travel to areas within 10 km of the border with Pakistan in Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan (owing to the unpredictable security situation and presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance). Below, we have compared the ‘Risk Levels’ section and inferred that no changes have been made since the update on July 6.
For the advantage of the reader, we have placed the ‘Health’ section from July 6 alongside the latest update on September 18. As is evident, the dates for the Global Measles Notice, Zika virus: Advice for travellers and the notice for COVID-19 and International Travel have clearly changed.
Moreover, it is worth noting that similar advisories have been issued for over a decade now, dating as far back as November 2012. According to the 2012 advisory, Canadian citizens were urged to ‘exercise a high degree of caution due to the continuing threat of terrorist attacks throughout the country at all times’. The 2012 advisory, too, cautioned against non-essential travel to Manipur and the border areas of Arunachal Pradesh (border with Burma) due to the ‘threat of insurgency’. There was a regional advisory against travelling to Jammu and Kashmir (due to ‘sporadic terrorist violence and street demonstrations’) and areas within the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan: Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab (due to the ‘possibility of landmines and unexploded ammunition’) in 2012 as well.
Below is a compilation of screenshots of updates to the website from January through May of 2023, prior to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. As is evident, the concerned section mentioning ‘Risk Levels’ of various regions in India remains the same.
We discovered that the USA has also issued a similar travel advisory cautioning against travel in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern states and India-Pakistan Border. It further advises US citizens against travelling to Central and East India owing the activity of ‘Maoist extremist groups, or “Naxalites”‘ which are active in places like eastern Maharashtra and northern Telangana through western West Bengal, particularly in rural parts of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and on the borders of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and Odisha.
Hence, as is evident, the viral claims that a travel advisory was issued after Canadian PM Trudeau had levelled allegations against the Indian government in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar are misleading. The update to the advisory on September 18 solely pertained to the health, while the ‘Risk Levels’ section has remained unchanged for years, predating the recent tensions. A large section of the media, including major outlets like ANI, Times Now and the Times of India, published reports based on the misleading claims.
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