Canadian Foreign Minister met with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar for the India-Canada Strategic Dialogue held in Delhi. The visit is seen as an attempt by both sides to put bilateral ties back on track.
It focused primarily on Canada’s newly released Indo-Pacific strategy that calls India an important partner.
- Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1947.
- Bilateral relation was elevated to a strategic partnership during PM Modi’s visit to Canada in 2015.
Cooperation during COVID-19 –
- Repatriation flights — Special charter flights were operated by the Canadian High Commission and facilitated by India to evacuate stranded Canadian nationals from India.
- Supply of medicines — Export of a total of 12.34 crore paracetamol tablets, 5 crore Hydroxychloroquine tablets and 3510 kgs of Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate USP (API); and 10 Million eye shield with face mask were shipped to Canada.
Trade relations –
- A priority market for Canada, in 2021, India was Canada’s 14th largest export market, and 13th largest trading partner overall.
- According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade —
- Canada’s Exports to India was US$2.39 Billion during 2021; and
- India’s Exports to Canada was US$3.56 Billion during the same period.
- Canada and India are working toward a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.
- India is also negotiating the Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA), ahead of a CEPA.
- Canadian Pension Funds have invested around US$ 32.6 billion in India till 2020.
- Pension Funds and other major investment firms have pledged portfolio investments of over US$ 50 billion in India.
Development cooperation –
- After 55 years of bilateral programming in India totalling $2.39 billion, Canada’s bilateral development assistance program came to an end in 2006.
- This was following a change in Indian government policy regarding aid.
- Canada supports various projects in India via Grand Challenges Canada.
- The main programming sector of the Partnerships for Development Innovation Branch is maternal, new-born and child health, which includes support to early childhood development.
Nuclear Cooperation –
- Canadian aid to India in the nuclear field begun in 1956. However, this relationship deteriorated in 1974 after India conducted Smiling Buddha nuclear test.
- Canada was among the first countries to participate in India’s nuclear power program.
- CIRUS research reactor was built in India in 1960 with the help of Canada.
- Later, in June 2010, the nuclear cooperation was restored when a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) with Canada was signed.
Science and Technology –
- Canada was a partner country for the Technology Summit 2017.
- 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.
Cooperation in Space –
- ANTRIX, the Commercial arm of ISRO, has launched several nanosatellites from Canada.
- ISRO in its 100th Satellite PSLV launched in January 2018, also flew Canadian first LEO satellite.
Cooperation in Indo-Pacific –
- In November 2022, Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy was released.
- Canada, 20 per cent of whose population originates in the Indo-Pacific region, is the last G7 nation to embrace the concept of the Indo-Pacific.
- The Canadian strategy document contains sharp words on China’s coercive challenge to the international rules-based order and on human rights.
- On the other hand, this document highlights India’s strategic importance and asked Canada to work closely with India.
People-to-people ties –
- Canada hosts one of the largest Indian diasporas in the world, numbering 1.6 million (PIOs and NRIs) which account for more than 4% of its total population.
- In the field of politics, in particular, the present House of Commons (total strength of 338) has 22 Members of Parliament of Indian-origin.
- For the first time, Canada Post and India Post joined hands to issue a commemorative stamp on Diwali in 2017. Diwali has been celebrated on the Parliament Hill for the last 18 years.
- Separatist Khalistani groups —
- Canada has been providing a safe haven for separatist Khalistani groups, which New Delhi sees as the Liberal Party’s pandering to these groups for votes.
- Diaspora Sikhs are well represented in the Trudeau government. Some of them are politically supported by pro-Khalistan groups.
- Jagmeet ‘Jimmy’ Dhaliwal, whose New Democratic Party supports Trudeau’s minority government in Parliament, is viewed with suspicion by the Indian establishment.
- Last year, New Delhi objected to Canada permitting a Khalistani secessionist “referendum” in the Sikh diaspora.
- Canada is slow to act against anti-India elements on its soil —
- Recently, a Hindu temple near Toronto was vandalised and defaced with anti-India graffiti.
- Concerns that Canada is slow to act against anti-India elements on its soil have been a constant irritant in the relationship.
- Other irritants include —
- Attacks on Indian-origin people;
- Canadian comments over India’s farmer protests and India’s cancellation of diplomatic talks in response.