INDIA-CANADA BILATERAL RELATIONS

 

INDIA-CANADA BILATERAL RELATIONS

 

Basics and Background

 

  • India-Canada bilateral relations have seen a transformation in recent years underpinned by shared values of democracy, pluralism, expanding economic engagement, regular high level interactions and long standing people-to-people ties.
  • During the visit of Prime Minister of India to Canada in April 2015, the two sides agreed to elevate the bilateral relations to a strategic partnership.
  • Historical ties between the two countries go back to over a century when Indians began migrating in small numbers to British Columbia in late 19th century.
  • After India became independent the bond of ‘Commonwealth of Nations’ was forged.
  • Over the years an array of institutional mechanisms has been put in place to promote bilateral cooperation. Both nations are also active members of multilateral forums such as G-20, ARF, WTO, etc.

 

People to People Connect
  • Canada hosts one of the largest Indian diasporas in the world, numbering 1.6 million (PIOs and NRIs) which account for more than 3% of its total population.
  • The diaspora has done commendably well in every sector in Canada. In the field of politics, in particular, the present House of Common (total strength of 338) has 22 Members of Parliament of Indian-origin.

 

Economic Cooperation
  • Bilateral trade amounted to USD 6.3 billion in 2018-19 (as per DOC). Canadian Pension Funds have invested around US$22 billion in India till now.
  • Canadian Pension Funds cumulatively pledged to invest 2 around US$ 42.5 billion in India and are increasingly viewing India as an attractive destination for investments.
  • More than 400 Canadian companies have a presence in India, and more than 1,000 companies are actively pursuing business in the Indian market.
  • Indian companies in Canada are active in the field such as Information Technology, software, steel, natural resources and banking sectors.
  • India and Canada are discussing Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and Bilateral Investment Promotion and Partnership Agreement (BIPPA/FIPA).

 

Energy Cooperation
  • Energy has been a primary area of our focus in the relations.
  • The scope of the Energy Dialogue was expanded to additionally include electricity, energy efficiency and renewable.
  • India Oil Corporation has a 10% participating interest in a Liquid Natural Gas project in British Columbia.
  • A Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) with Canada was signed in June 2010 and came into force in September 2013.
  • The Appropriate Arrangement (AA) for the NCA was signed in March 2013, under which a Joint Committee on Civil Nuclear Cooperation was constituted.
  • Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and M/S CAMECO Inc. signed an agreement for supply of uranium ore concentrate to India in 2015-2020.

 

Science and Technology

 

  • Indo-Canadian Science and Technology cooperation has been primarily focused on promoting Industrial R&D which has potential for application through development of new IP, processes, prototypes or products.
  • Both side reviewed the status of ongoing activities and finalized the Action Plan for 2017-18 which envisages 3 collaboration in the emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Nano-technology, 3D printing, etc.
  • Department of Biotechnology under IC-IMPACTS program implements joint research projects in health care, agri-biotech and waste management.
  • Department of Earth Science and Polar Canada have started a programme for exchange of knowledge and scientific research on Cold Climate (Arctic) Studies.

 

Space Cooperation
  • India and Canada are pursuing successful cooperative and commercial relations in the field of Space since 1990s mainly on space science, earth observation, satellite launch services and ground support for space missions.
  • ISRO and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) have signed two MOUs in the field of exploration and utilisation of outer space in October 1996 and March 2003.
  • ANTRIX, the Commercial arm of ISRO, has launched several nano-satellites from Canada.
  • ISRO in its 100th Satellite PSLV launched on 12 January 2018, also flew Canadian first LEO satellite, from Indian spaceport Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.

 

Education
  • Education is a key area of mutual interest.
  • Recently India became the top source of foreign students with 203000 Indian students studying in Canada. The MoU on Higher Education (2010) with Canada was renewed in February 2018.
  • 69 reputed Canadian faculty members have visited India, so far under the Global Initiative of Academic Works (GIAN) programme for teaching assignments in Indian institutions.
  • Canada is one of the 28 countries covered under the Scheme for promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC), an initiative aiming to improve research ecosystems in India’s higher education institutions.
  • The Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute (SICI) is a unique bi-national organization fostering, since 1968, education and cultural cooperation 4 and collaboration between India and Canada.

 

Defence and Security
  • India and Canada collaborate closely in international fora, particularly through the UN, Commonwealth and G-20.
  • Defence ties have been expanding with mutual ship visits.
  • There is robust cooperation on counter terrorism issues particularly through the framework of the JWG on Counter Terrorism.
  • The security cooperation was further enhanced with the Framework for Cooperation between India and Canada on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism signed by the National Security Advisor of India and the National Security and Intelligence Advisor of Canada on 14 February 2018.

 

India-Canada Track 1.5 Dialogue
  • The India-Canada Track 1.5 Dialogue on Innovation, Growth and Prosperity strives to build closer ties between India and Canada and nurture the relationship to its full potential.
  • India-Canada has established a Track 1.5 Dialogue on involving experts, government officials and business leaders from both sides to explore the possibility of future cooperation.
  • In addition to its focus on innovation, the partnership will examine topics such as collaboration on research and higher education, promotion of India-Canada trade and investment, energy cooperation, and issues pertaining to global governance.
  • The first round was held in 29-30 October 2018 at Ottawa, Canada.
  • The second round was held on 22 November 2019 in Mumbai.

 

Indian Diaspora
  • Canada is home to over 1.2 million Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) who comprise more than 3% of the country’s population.
  • The highly educated, affluent and industrious Indo-Canadian community, one the largest immigrant groups in Canada, is well integrated with the mainstream and serves as a strong bridge between the two nations.
  • The Indian community is culturally active and has organized itself in various associations and groups.
  • Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has the largest Indian community estimated at around 600,000 followed by Vancouver at around 300,000. It is estimated that two-thirds of Indo-Canadians are Punjabi speaking, followed by those who speak Gujarati.
  • Many Indo-Canadians hold key positions in business enterprises, public service and other professions.
  • The Diaspora is also well represented in federal Parliament and provincial legislatures. In the present House of Commons, there are nine Members of Parliament of Indian origin and two of them are Minister of State in the Federal Cabinet.
  • Prominent Indo-Canadian organizations include Canada India Business Council (CIBC), Canada India Foundation (CIF), Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (I-CCC) and other local chambers and associations.

 

Khalistan Issue
  • Khalistan extremism in Canada dates back to the post-1984 ‘Operation Bluestar’
  • In 1985, Canada based Sikh extremist outfit, ‘Babbar Khalsa’, plotted and executed the mid-air bombing of an Air India flight, which killed 331 people, the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of aviation until the 9/11 horror.
  • The Sikh expatriates’ support for the Khalistan’s has since ebbed with only a tiny section still espousing the cause.
  • Worryingly for India, however, there has been a marked resurgence of Khalistan radicalism in Canada since 2013 when the Liberal Party came to power.
  • In recent years, India-Canada ties have deteriorated, especially given the view that the current Justin Trudeau administration is soft on individuals and organisations that support the demand for Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland.
  • Members of Mr. Trudeau’s Cabinet, especially Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, have been accused of having links with Sikh separatists.
  • When Mr. Sajjan visited India in April 2017, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh refused to meet him for this reason.
  • Similarly, Mr. Trudeau received the cold shoulder during his India visit in February 2018.
  • When Mr. Singh met Mr. Trudeau, their discussion was on the Khalistan issue, rather than on areas of mutual cooperation.
  • Recently, Mr. Trudeau drew the ire of the Indian government when “2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada” avoided the words ‘Khalistan Extremism’.

Concerns in relations:

  • Canada remains an insignificant trading partner for India. In 2017, compared to other North American countries, Indian exports to Canada stood at just over US$2 billion, behind the US and Mexico. However, imports from Canada were valued at more than US$4.5 billion in 2017, ahead of Mexico.
  • In the popular Indian imagination, Canada is an attractive destination for skilled immigrants and a source of agricultural commodities and energy resources; it is hardly a strategic partner.
  • India’s Canada policy, on the other hand, has partly been informed by the presence of Khalistan sympathizers who espouse anti-India sentiments. Canada’s criticism of New Delhi has dented India’s interest in engaging Canada as a strategic partner.
  • India’s economic potential, including the investment opportunities it offers, has led Canada to periodically review the economic dimension of this bilateral relationship in its India policy.

 

Way Forward
  • It is indeed tragic that India-Canada relations have become a political hostage to the Khalistan question
  • Delhi, however, has rightly decided it must stay engaged with Trudeau, who leads one of the world’s top economies and is a member of the Group of Sevenadvanced nations.