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Canadians made 280,000 tourist arrivals in India last year, according to Indian government data Image Credit: Bloomberg

Canadian tourists, business travelers and even some former Indian citizens are rushing to change flights and inquire about their trip deposits after India abruptly suspended visa applications in the country amid an escalating diplomatic row.

A day after the Indian government warned its citizens in Canada to "exercise utmost caution" and hinted that their safety is threatened, BLS International "- an agency that processes visa requests in Canada "- posted an online notice saying services have been "suspended until further notice."

"This shouldn't happen for the innocent people," said Jothy Ilangovan, standing in line outside the BLS office in Toronto. She was there to help her brother, a Canadian citizen who has lived in the country for 33 years, obtain a visa for a Hindu pilgrimage back to India. He had already booked his vacation time from work and feared the trip would be cancelled.

Ties between Canada and India are at their lowest point in decades after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Indian government of orchestrating the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

India has denied the allegation, calling it "absurd" and hitting back with measures aimed at curbing travel between two nations.

The latest move means most Canadians won't be able to travel to India if they don't already have a visa. Travel agents said e-visa applications online were also not being processed for Canadians. And while Canadians who previously held Indian passports are eligible for Overseas Citizen of India cards "- which allow visa-free entry "- many do not hold them.

"This is going to impact Canada, and its trade and economy, where India has played a big role," said Unnati Oza, a Toronto-based travel agent. "I used to work with a client who used to go there twice a year for business "- to Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai."

It's not just business travel. The visa suspension is also hitting leisure travelers: Canadians made 280,000 tourist arrivals in India last year, according to Indian government data, making it the No. 5 source of such visitors.

"I already have four or five people calling me this morning. They're due to go in October and November for eight to 10 days of sightseeing. Now, they're worried because the tours are non-refundable," said Ottawa-based travel agent Lalit Sharma, who specializes in India. "If they don't have the visas, they can't go."

At the BLS office in Toronto, a sign told visitors that visa services were suspended for "operational reasons." Most of the people in line on Thursday morning were there to renew their Indian passports, but others were trying to get advice on the visa suspension.