India-Canada bilateral ties are underpinned by shared values of democracy, pluralism, expanding economic engagement, regular high level interactions and long-standing people-to-people ties.
India and Canada have longstanding bilateral relationship based on shared democratic values, the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature of two societies and strong people-to-people contacts.
The visit of Indian Prime Minister in 2015 to Canada, elevated the bilateral relation to a Strategic Partnership
The further visit of Canadian Prime Minister in 2018, reaffirmed the breadth and scope of Canada-India relations, based on the fundamental principle of respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the two countries.
Also, as Westminster style democracies, India and Canada share commonalities in Parliamentary structure and procedures.
Areas of Cooperation
Both sides pursue bilateral relations through the following dialogue mechanisms:
Ministerial level- Strategic, Trade and Energy dialogues
Foreign Office Consultations; and
Other sector specific joint working groups (JWG)
Joint Working Group (JWG) on Higher Education(Since 2019)
JWG on Counter Terrorism
Joint Committee Meeting on Civil Nuclear cooperation
India-Canada Strategic Dialogue by the External Affairs Ministers of both nations
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.
Bilateral trade between India and Canada stands at USD 5 billion.
More than 400 Canadian companies have a presence in India, and more than 1,000 companies are actively pursuing business in the Indian market.
Also, Canadian pension funds have pledged over USD 55 billion in investments between 2014 and 2020
Indian companies in Canada are active in the field such as Information Technology, software, steel, natural resources and banking sectors.
India’s exports to Canada include pharma, iron and steel, chemicals, gem and jewellery, nuclear reactors and boilers.
Imports comprise minerals, ores, vegetables, fertiliser, paper and pulp.
Also, Canada and India are working toward a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA).
As of 2021, Canada invested nearly $24 million in 2018-2019 to support 75 projects in India via Grand Challenges Canada.
The main programming sector of the Partnerships for Development Innovation Branch is maternal, newborn and child health, which includes support to early childhood development.
Canadian funding supports key organizations active in India including the Micronutrient Initiative, the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Population Fund and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Key organizations supported by Canada that are active in India include Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the World Bank, the United Nations Population Fund, UNICEF, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, and Nutrition International.
Key sectors supported in India by Global Affairs Canada through multilateral funding include: sustainable economic development, treatment of infectious diseases, and nutrition.
The International Development Research Centre(IDRC) continues to have an active presence in India with projects focusing on-
the links between climate change and migration
the reduction of violence against vulnerable populations
women’s rights, security and access to justice
economic opportunities for Indian workers, especially women; and
improving food security.
A Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) with Canada was signed in 2010 and came into force in 2013.
The Appropriate Arrangement (AA) for the NCA was signed in 2013, under which a Joint Committee on Civil Nuclear Cooperation was constituted.
In 2015, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) signed an agreement for supply of uranium ore concentrate to India in 2015-2020.
Security and Defence
India and Canada collaborate closely in international fora particularly through the UN, Commonwealth and G-20.
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has signed a MoU for cooperation with Canada’s York University (signed in 2012), which focuses on biological and chemical warfare and sensors.
A Statement of Intent (SoI) on Cooperation between DRDO and Canada’s Defence Research and Development Council has been signed in 2015.
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 in 2018.
The two countries have signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in 1994 (operationalised in 1998) and Extradition Treaty in 1987.
The Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism was set up in 1997.
There is substantial engagement on counter terrorism issues particularly through the framework of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Counter Terrorism.
Energy has been a primary area of our focus, considering that Canada is an ‘energy superpower’ with one of the world’s largest resources of uranium, natural gas, oil, coal, minerals and advanced technologies in hydropower, mining, renewable energy and nuclear energy.
India Oil Corporation has a 10% participating interest in a Liquid Natural Gas project in British Columbia.
Science and Technology
Indo-Canadian Science and Technology cooperation has been primarily focussed on promoting Industrial R&D which has potential for application through development of new IP, processes, prototypes or products.
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.
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 MOUs in the field of exploration and utilisation of outer space.
ANTRIX, the Commercial arm of ISRO, has launched several nanosatellites from Canada.
ISRO in its 100th Satellite PSLV launched in 2018, also flew Canadian first LEO satellite, from Indian spaceport Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.
Recently India became the top source of foreign students with 203000 Indian students studying in Canada.
Many Canadian faculty members have visited India, 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 and collaboration between India and Canada.
As part of commemoration of 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji, it was decided by GOI to set up a Chair on Guru Nanak Devji in a Canadian University.
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.
Supply of Hydroxichloroquine (HCQ) to Canada: As part of the series of shipments of the drugs to various countries, India supplied consignment of five million tablets of HCQ to Canada.
Evacuation of stranded Indian and Canadian nationals from each other’s’ countries and Air Bubble operations: India and Canada made arrangement to evacuate their respective stranded nationals from each other’s countries.
Development of COVID-19 vaccines: External Affairs Minister and the Canadian Foreign Minister have discussed the possible cooperation with regard to medical challenges due to COVID-19 pandemic. India has offered to make available its production capacities in PPEs, pharmaceutical products and vaccines to Canadian companies in collaboration.
Challenges to India-Canada relations
The early Sikh immigrants to Canada sought to politically organise themselves, reacting to the anti-immigrant sentiments and discrimination they faced in the country.
Social, economic and political developments in India that affected the interests of the Sikhs like the declaration of emergency in 1975, Riots of 1984, further fuelled their political drive.
Events such as the 1984 riots and the Golden Temple incident are frequently introduced in Canada’s provincial legislatures, often in the form of petitions.
This has led to regionalisation of Indo-Canadian politics.
While Sikh militancy has largely died down in India, concerns remain about the revival of the Khalistan movement.
Amongst a small but highly motivated section of the Canadian Sikh diaspora, the movement has been heavily internalised.
Such Activities of a section of the Canadian Sikh diaspora population that have espoused the Khalistan sentiments have contributed greatly to the India–Canada rift.
India has been the largest market for Canadian pulses, peas and lentils.
In the last few years, India has been receiving bumper crops in pulses, and is unwilling to import the staple food, to protect domestic farmers.
In this perspective, India’s measure to increase duties by 50% of all imported peas without providing any advanced notice in 2018, irked the Canadian Government.
Bilateral agreements such as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPA), have been in negotiation for long time and no progress has been reached by both the countries.
Also, structural impediments such as complex labour laws, market protectionism, and bureaucratic regulations are roadblocks for Indo-Canadian relations.
India’s growing economy offers opportunities for a G-7 country such as Canada, e.g. the emergence of a significant middle-class consumer population, improvement in the business climate, a booming service sector and a robust demand for natural resources.
Canada, being an advanced and resource-rich economy can cement better ties with India for a win-win situation.
Energy is another area of emerging cooperation for the two countries.
According to the Oil Processing and Exporting Countries (OPEC), World Oil Outlook Report 2040, India’s oil demand will double by 2040.
In times of growing pressure from the US to cut oil imports from Iran, Canada could be an alternative energy source for India.
The infrastructure and transport sectors, too, are potential areas of cooperation and investment.
India’s ambitious ‘smart cities’ initiative creates opportunities for Canadian firms, to undertake infrastructure projects in various Indian cities.
Also, Canada’s experience in developing environment-friendly urban infrastructure can prove beneficial for India.
India-Canada relations have struggled to prosper, despite the two countries sharing various complementarities such as their democratic character and association in the Commonwealth.
For India to overcome the longstanding hiatus in its relations with Canada, it must divert its attention away from politically contentious issues.
Also, India should also take into consideration that past events affecting the Sikh diaspora in Canada have gradually become part of the political discourse in Canada.
Hence there is a need to develop a new framework of cooperation that is more pragmatic and that emphasises on mutually beneficial areas, such as trade, where opportunities lie and much work remains to be done, for better Indo-Canadian relations.