Foreign Policy Watch: India-Canada

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Canada

India-Canada relations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations and increasing convergence

Track 1.5 dialogue

  •  The third round of India-Canada Track 1.5 Dialogue, comprising senior diplomats, officials and independent experts, will be held on a virtual platform.
  • This promising interaction represents a major, deliberate endeavour to boost the bilateral relationship.

Convergence on China issue

  • Common challenges of the COVID-19 era accelerated the momentum of bilateral engagement.
  • Canada’s travails with China, starting with the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer in Canada in December 2018.
  • Later, the ‘hostage diplomacy’ practised by Beijing which arrested two Canadian nationals, has caused huge stress in Canada-China relations, turning Canadian public opinion against China.
  • This opened the door to a closer relationship with India.
  • In this backdrop, developments concerning the Indo-Pacific —  strengthening of the Quad and the growing interest of France, Netherlands and Germany to be active players in the region — are of immense relevance to Ottawa.
  • The forthcoming dialogue can deepen the India-Canada convergence on this issue.

Principal area’s of bilateral cooperation

  • Canada-India merchandise trade exceeded C$10 billion in 2019.
  • Canada’s cumulative investment, including foreign direct investment and by Canadian pension funds, is a substantive C$55 billion.
  • Addressing virtually the ‘Invest India’ conference in Canada on  Prime Minister pointed out that mature Canadian investors have been present in India for many years and assured them that no barriers would come in their way.
  • Indian students are increasingly being educated in Canada, and a quarter million of them spent an estimated $5 billion in tuition fees and other expenses last year, a solid contribution to the Canadian economy.
  • Of 330,000 new immigrants accepted by Canada last year, 85,000 i.e. nearly 25%, were from India.
  • The Indian diaspora in Canada is now 1.6 million-strong, representing over 4% of the country’s total population.
  • The principal areas of bilateral cooperation are best defined by five Es: Economy, Energy, Education, Entertainment and Empowerment of women.
  • In particular, the digital domain holds immense potential, given Canada’s proven assets in technology — especially its large investment in Artificial Intelligence, innovation and capital resources, and India’s IT achievements, expanding digital payment architecture and policy modernisation.


Divided by geographical distance but united through clear common interests and shared values, India and Canada will begin their steady journey of progress, this time with a laser-like focus on common goals as well.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Canada

[op-ed snap] Canadian bathos: Justin Trudeau’s vote-banks


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Cold war, G7

Mains level: Sikh separatism issue and role of Canada


Justin Trudeau’s political indulgence of Sikh extremists in Canada

  1. Domestic politics often trumps the enlightened pursuit of national interest abroad
  2. In most countries, especially democracies, the cultivation of narrowly-based domestic constituencies for electoral reasons has its unfortunate consequences for the conduct of foreign policy
  3. Delhi’s perennial focus on elections of one kind or another makes its leaders quite sensitive to the domestic political considerations of India’s foreign interlocutors
  4. Sikhs form a 3 percent of Canadian population and Trudeau is supporting a small section of Sikhs which is hostile to Delhi

Cooling relationship

  1. PM Modi, who is more than eager to serenade visiting leaders in his home state, Gujarat, did not travel to Ahmedabad to be with Trudeau
  2. This underlines the new cooling that is enveloping the relationship
  3. It is entirely possible that Trudeau’s visit, instead of putting aside the Khalistan issue, could end up aggravating the differences with India

Trudeau’s mixed signals

  1. The Canadian PM’s visit is indeed a valuable opportunity to clear the air on Trudeau’s attitude towards Sikh separatism
  2. But still, it is not apparent whether he is ready to affirm a strong commitment to the unity and territorial integrity of India and dissociate himself from the Khalistanis
  3. Canada has seemed reluctant to address India’s concerns related to Sikh separatism

India-Canada relationship

  1. In the early years of the Cold War, India and Canada sought to create political breathing room for middle powers in a fraught bipolar world
  2. Delhi and Ottawa had good bonding on issue of liberal internationalism
  3. At the bilateral level, civil nuclear collaboration between the two countries was a shining example of scientific internationalism during the Cold War
  4. Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper, had unveiled in 2015 a vision for strategic partnership that was to build on the many shared interests between the two countries

Way forward

  1. It is indeed tragic that India-Canada relations have become a political hostage to the Khalistan question
  2. 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 Seven advanced nations
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