Tories ‘deeply regret’ smear of India’s security force

OTTAWA – Immigration Minister Jason Kenney apologized Friday for the "false aspersions" cast on Indian defence and security forces by Canadian consular officials who referred to India’s Border Security Force as a "notoriously violent" unit which attacked civilians and tortured criminals.

The relations-chilling comment – which has made headline news in India all week – was linked to reports that said visa applications by about half a dozen current and former defence, intelligence and security officials were rejected by Canadian officials in the last 18 months.

Kenney said the government "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."

Kenney said a review of visa-screening policy was underway.

"Canada has the highest regard for India, its government institutions and processes," he added.

The dispute appears to have come to a head as a result of publicity by retired Border Security Force trooper Fateh Singh Pandher, whose visa-rejection letter described his former employer as a "notoriously violent paramilitary unit stationed in sensitive areas, attacking civilians and torturing suspected criminals."

The apology was reportedly accepted by India’s External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna.

"I think they have realized their mistakes," he was quoted as saying in local media. "We should consider the chapter closed."

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