Visa row: Canada expresses deep regret

Toronto: After maintaining a deafening silence for well over a week on the issue of unwarranted comments made by its embassy officials while denying visas to Indian nationals who were members of the country's security forces and agencies, Canada today said it deeply regretted these aspersions.

"The government of Canada 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," citizenship and immigration minister Jason Kenney said late on Thursday.

The belated apology comes only after a media outcry within the country forced the Indian establishment to react and seek a response from Canada. The issue blew up just ahead of a scheduled visit to Canada by the Indian prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh to attend a G-20 summit.

Canada, a resource rich country, is also keen to be an active participant in India's booming civil nuclear market as a fuel and technology supplier.

Minister Kenney tried to assuage Indian sentiments by saying Canada had "the highest regard for India, its government institutions and processes".

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