Recently, Canada removed a reference to Sikh extremism from its “2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada”, a move that was criticised by the Indian government.
• Earlier, the 2018 report had identified Sikh extremism and the movement for an independent homeland of Khalistan, in Punjab, as one of five key terror threats facing Canada, along with “Sunni Islamist Extremism”, “Right-Wing Extremism”, “Shia Extremism” and “Canadian Extremist Travellers”.
• The report was widely criticised by Sikh organisations in Canada
• Bowing to the pressure from the influential Sikh community in the country, Public Safety Canada has updated the report with ‘Extremists who Support Violent Means to Establish an Independent State Within India’ deleting the words Sikh extremism and Khalistan.
• Added section identifies two organisations in Canada, Babbar Khalsa International and the International Sikh Youth Federation, as being associated with terrorism.
• This move is being criticised by the India government, which has long accused the Canadian government of going soft pro-Khalistan groups in Canada
Relation between India and Canada in recent time
- Believes in Multipolarity: Canada, a middle power country, is sympathetic to the Indian view that peace and prosperity in Asia would depend on an effective balance of power rather than a Sino-centric Asia.
Also, Canada, like India, is a strong supporter of “freedom of navigation and over-flight throughout the Indo-Pacific”, and it has expressed itself forthrightly on China’s unacceptable activities in the South China Sea. This shows Canada is conscious of the value of multi-polarity.
- Trade and economy: Bilateral trade between India and Canada has reached US$ 6 in 2016 and cumulative two-way Direct Foreign Investment reached US$ 2.9 billion.
Both the countries undertaking bilateral negotiations toward a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA)
India’s import from Canada include pulses, newsprint, wood pulp, asbestos, potash, iron scrap, copper, minerals and industrial chemicals.
- Cooperation in Energy sectors: Resource rich Canada is well positioned as a reliable partner in India’s quest for energy security India and Canada working together on development of civil nuclear energy.
- Education Sector: Education is a key area of collaboration between India and Canada. In 2017, Indian students received well over 25% (over 80,000) of the available study permits.
- Permanent residency: In 2017, well over 40% of the 86,022 people who received invitations for permanent residency were Indians. During 2018, this rose by a staggering 13% to 41,000.
- Agriculture Sector: Canada is a key supplier of pulses and potash. Cold chain management, animal husbandry, dryland farming, food processing technologies and agricultural sustainability are priority areas for bilateral cooperation.
- Science & Technology: India-Canada S&T Cooperation Agreement was signed in 2005. Regular consultations have taken place through the Indo-Canada Joint S&T Committee.
- Outer Space: India and Canada have been cooperating since 1990s, in the areas of space science, earth observation, satellite launch services and ground support for space missions.
Areas of concern between India and Canada
- Khalistan Issue: Canadian political parties are openly supporting Khalistan movement in Canada. This became a major area of concern between two countries.
- Bilateral Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA): India has not signed the BIPPA yet. Once the agreement is finalised there would be higher inflow of Pension fund from Canada.
Steps to be taken
- Tourism and education are two important sectors where huge potential exists. The more Indian tourists visit Canada and the more Indian students enter Canadian universities, the stronger momentum will develop that shall enrich the people-to-people relations. Promotional measures should be undertaken actively for this twin purpose.
- India must sign BIPPA which would help to flow more funds to India.
- Canadian firms should explore opportunities more actively in infrastructure, urban development, energy, education, and health sectors. Indian companies can exploit the largely untapped potential of the expanding ICT business in Toronto and other Canadian cities.
- If there is evidence of support for any violent activity related to Khalistan, both the country must work together to tackle the problem.
India-Canada relations are strategically thin. Canada has little to offer in terms of assisting India with core strategic objectives that include China, Pakistan, the subcontinent, maritime security in the Indian Ocean rim and beyond.
But with over 1.2 million people of Indian origin, Canada remains an important destination for Indians. Being an open economy, it has continued to attract not only Indian capital but also Indian professionals and students. Thus, it is important to handle ties with Canada with nuance. India should not focus only on one Issue of Khalistan as relation between two countries is multi-layered.