India-Canada relationship

How India-Canada ties evolved? What are the challenges and opportunities exist in India-Canada ties?

This article is based on The Hindu Article “India summons Canadian High Commissioner; issues demarche over Trudeau’s remarks”


Recently Canadian Prime Minister expressed his views on Indian farm Bills and supported farmer’s protest. Similarly, Canadian PM’s coalition partner also praised the farmer’s protests in India.

Days after Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came out in support of protesting farmers, India summoned the Canadian envoy Friday and warned that such “actions”, if they continue, will have a “seriously damaging impact” on bilateral ties.

How India-Canada ties evolved after Independence? (Source)

  • Canada and India have longstanding bilateral relations built upon shared traditions of democracy, pluralism and strong interpersonal connections.
  • This is complemented by economic engagement, regular high-level interactions and long-standing people-to-people ties.
  • In 1948 when Canada supported a plebiscite, followed by a ceasefire, in the Indian state of Kashmir.
  • Canada opposed India’s nuclear tests: In the aftermath of the nuclear tests, India’s relations with Canada deteriorated to some extent.
    • India’s reluctance to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) the widened gulf between New Delhi and Ottawa for many years.
  • Canada is home to one of the largest South Asian communities abroad, with approximately 5.6% of Canadians being of Indian heritage (1.9 million people).
  • They are highly educated, affluent and industrious PIOs, and well-integrated with the mainstream politics of Canada.
  • This is acts as a double-edged sword in India-Canada relationship.
  • All these made India-Canada relations as long standing but not without challenges

What are the areas of co-operation between India and Canada? (Source )

  • Trade and Economy:
    • India is Canada’s 9th largest export market
    • India exports include gems, jewellery and precious stones, pharmaceutical products, readymade garments, light engineering goods, iron & steel articles, etc.
    • India’s import from Canada include pulses, newsprint, wood pulp, asbestos, potash, iron scrap, copper, minerals and industrial chemicals, etc.
    • Indian companies have invested especially in the IT, software, steel and natural resources sectors.
  • Various MOU’s between India and Canada has been signed in sectors such as
    • Agriculture
    • Civil Aviation and Railways
    • Double taxation etc,
  • Cooperation in Energy sectors
    • India and Canada signed a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) in 2010 for which a Joint Committee on Civil Nuclear Cooperation was constituted by both the countries.
    • In 2015 when Indian PM visited Canada, Uranium supply deal has been signed.
    • Energy co-operation agreements were signed in 2018 when Canadian Prime Minister visited India.
  • Education Sector:
    • In 2018, India was the largest source of international students for Canada’s universities, colleges and schools.
    • Over 100,000/- Indian students study in Canada. To protect the interests of students a MOU on Cooperation in Higher Education has been signed in 2010.
    • IC-IMPACTS (the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability) is a research centre dedicated to the development of research collaborations between Canada and India.
  • S&T and Space:
    • ISRO and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) have signed MOUs for cooperation in the field of exploration and utilization of outer space and two Implementation Arrangements specifically addressing satellite tracking and space astronomy has also been signed.
    • ANTRIX, the Commercial arm of ISRO has launched many Canadian Satellites.
  • Indian Diaspora
    • The Diaspora is well represented in federal Parliament and provincial legislatures.
      For ex. New Democratic Party, one of the coalition party of present Canadian government is headed by a person of Indian Origin (Jagmeet Singh).
  • Both the country also formed various organisations such as Canada – India Parliamentary Friendship Group (CIPEG), Canada India Business Council (CIBC), Canada India Foundation (CIF), Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (I-CCC) for strengthening India-Canada Co-operation.
  • Canada and India are undertaking bilateral negotiations toward both a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) at present

Challenges in India – Canada relationships: (RSTV Big Picture)

Though India and Canada have long standing relationships, the co-operation never achieved its full potential because of various reasons.

  • Khalistani separatist factor:
    • It is the single most important challenge between India and Canada ties.
    • Sikhs constitute a significant proportion of the Indian diaspora; they make up little less than one percent (a little over 500,000) of Canada’s total population and few leaders in Canada support Khalistan movement to large extent for electoral gains in Canada.
    • The Ontario Provincial Parliament adopted a resolution terming the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as ‘genocide’ and many other Canadian leaders also support that even today.
    • During recent Canadian PM visit to India, a controversial picture where former Sikh separatist Jaspal Atwal has surfaced in news.
    • Canadian government usually try to balance the Sikh assertions and government’s India policy. This makes India Canada relationship at stake.
    • It is also the reason for recent Canadian PM’s support to Indian farmer’s protest.
  • Trade Relations:
    • Though both the countries are involved in Trade for long time the trade deals are “always underperformed” said by Ministry of External Affairs, India.
    • Feminisation of Canadian Trade Policies
      Canadian Government put in gender clauses in the trade pact. Though it is revolutionary, but in countries like India it was seen as a non-tariff barrier.
      For Ex. Canadian Trade agreement with Chile has entire Chapter devoted to women.
  • Bilateral agreements: Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPA), have been in negotiation for long time and no progress is reached by both the countries.
  • Strategic Location:
    • Canada surrounded by developed Western countries does not clearly understand India located with hostile neighbours like China and Pakistan.
    • The terms and conditions have heavily tilted towards developed countries and Indian interests are not considered seriously so far.


  • Canada has to understand and remove Feminisation clause in trade pacts or give more time to countries like India to complete the terms associated.
  • Canada is one of the most advanced country in terms of Renewable Energy. India with its focus of Renewable energy targets in Nationally Determined Contributions has to strike a deal or MOU regarding renewable energy.
  • Infrastructure and transport sectors, are potential areas of cooperation and investment. India’s ambitious ‘smart cities’ initiative creates opportunities for Canadian firms like Bombardier etc.
  • In 2017 Canadian government announced that Canada will take in 1 Million more Immigrants. With US and few other Western Countries are turning down migrants, Canada turned as an alternative destination for Indians and India has to leverage that.
  • Canadian Energy reserves: According to World Oil Outlook Report, India’s oil demand will double by 2040. Canada’s Oil and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) resources offer better alternative towards Indian demands.
  • Convergence over China factor: Canada recently stated to diverge its trade relations and opposed China’s diplomacy. India has a potential to become a trade supplier.

Way forward:

There is enough potential for both, India and Canada to boost the cooperation and take their relations to next level. But it requires Canadian effort by widening their Indian perspective. This can happen if India by diverting the talks from politically contentious issues

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