Canada- India relations
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Relations, in brief
India-Canada share a strategic partnership underpinned by shared values of democracy and pluralism. These have expanded significantly in recent years aided by heightened economic engagement, regular high level interactions and long-standing people-to-people ties.
The Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA), which was signed in June 2010, came into force in September 2013.The Appropriate Arrangement (AA) for the NCA was signed in March 2013, under which a Joint Committee on Civil Nuclear Cooperation was constituted. It held its first meeting in Mumbai on 29 November, 2013. The 2nd meeting was held in Ottawa in November 2014. On 15thApril 2015, the Department of Atomic Energy signed a $350 million contract with Cameco, a Saskatoon-based company, to purchase 7 million pounds of uranium concentrate over the next 5 years. The first shipment arrived in India in December 2015.
Science & Technology and 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.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.ANTRIX, the Commercial arm of ISRO, has launched nine nanosatellite under a commercial arrangement with University of Toronto - Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS).ANTRIX also launched a microsatellite SAPPHIRE (commercial contract with MacDonald, Dettwiler& Associates (MDA), Canada and NEOSSat (contract with Microsat Systems, Canada) as auxiliary satellites on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C20) in February 2013.The PSLV-C23, which was launched in June 2014 carried two Canadian satellites, CanX-4 and CanX-5, from the University of Toronto's Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Laboratory.
The Diaspora is well represented in federal Parliament and provincial legislatures. In the present House of Commons (elections held on 19 October 2015), there are 21 MPs of Indian origin (up from 9). Four PIOs now hold Cabinet berths (up from two of Ministers of State in the last Cabinet).Prominent Indo-Canadian organisations include Canada India Business Council (CIBC), Canada India Foundation (CIF), Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (I-CCC) and other local chambers and associations.
2019: Canada removes references to Khalistanis in terrorism report
The Canadian government’s decision to remove all references to Khalistani extremism in its 2018 report on terrorist threats to Canada has drawn sharp criticism from Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh.
Expressing surprise over the ruling Canadian Liberal Party’s decision, Amarinder said it was clearly aimed at protecting its political interests in a poll year on the pretext of pressure groups in the Sikh community. But the decision could have serious consequences for Indo-Canadian relations in the long run, he warned, reasoning that such a move is a threat to Indian as well as global security.
The Canadian government had removed eight references to Sikh extremism and six references to Khalistan from its terror report. Khalistan is a separate state being sought by radical Sikh groups.
An update to the “2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada” was published by Public Safety Canada on April 12.
Amarinder had handed over a list of nine ‘A’ category Canada-based terror operatives of Indian origin, including members of Khalistan Tiger Force, International Sikh Youth Federation and Babbar Khalsa International, to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau on February 21 last year during his visit to Amritsar. Trudeau was informed that Canadian soil was being misused by Khalistani activists to finance terror activities in India from Canada. But, except in one or two cases, the Canadian government has failed to take any action against any of those persons.
“Trudeau was playing with fire with his decision to assuage inflamed domestic passions through this ill-considered move,” Amarinder said on Sunday. He poin
Prime Ministerial visits
2018, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau's visit to India
Some Canadians feel India snubbed Trudeau
Is the Centre snubbing Justin Trudeau on his India visit? Some Canadians believe so
PM Narendra Modi did not go to the airport to receive the Canadian head of state
UP CM Adityanath did not accompany the Trudeaus on their visit to the Taj Mahal
Trudeau is today scheduled to visit Gujarat, and his itinerary includes a trip to the Sabarmati Ashram
The event of the visit has barely created a ripple, and many Canadians think that's because New Delhi is very openly snubbing him over his perceived support for Sikh separatists in his country.
For one, PM Narendra Modi did not go to the airport to receive the Canadian head of state. Candice Malcolm, a columnist for the Canadian publication Toronto Sun, pointed out the stark contrast between how other heads of state have been received in India versus how Trudeau has not.
As if that wasn't bad enough, whom did the Centre send to the airport to receive Trudeau? Junior agriculture minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who is, as one Canadian put it, like a (mere) "parliamentary secretary in Canada".
Then, Trudeau, his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and their three children visited the Taj Mahal yesterday while Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath was nowhere in sight. A scant month ago, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Taj, the UP CM personally showed him around. But all the Trudeaus got were the Agra district magistrate and some other local administrators.
Many say that the Centre's absence of pomp and ceremony is an indication of its displeasure with Trudeau for appointing Cabinet ministers with links allegedly to the Sikh separatist movement.
Trudeau has four Sikh cabinet ministers - Harjit Sajjan, Amarjeet Sohi, Navdeep Bains and Bardish Chagger. Sohi said earlier this month that he's neither sympathetic to nor against the Khalistan movement.
"If there is a small segment of people in Canada who talk about separation, who talk about the creation of Khalistan if they do that in a peaceful way that is their right to do so but this is not an issue that I hear in the community," said Sohi.
Canadian columnist Malcolm did not take kindly to this statement. She wondered whether newcomers to Canada were "entitled" to support foreign extremist organizations.
Malcolm believes Trudeau must denounce Khalistani extremists publicly, while in India, and should apologize to Amarinder. Another Canadian opposition leader, Jagmeet Singh, must also "denounce Khalistani radicals", she added.
Amarinder has said he has no problem meeting with Trudeau, but added they won't meet with some ministers in his cabinet because they "have negative views regarding Punjab". It's still not certain whether an Amarinder-Trudeau meet is on the cards when the Trudeaus visit Amritsar's Golden Temple.
Until then, it appears Trudeau will be met with "about the same enthusiasm as (a) malarian mosquito", as a Canadian policy advisor described the low-profile reception Trudeau has got thus far.
Trudeau is today scheduled to visit Gujarat, and his itinerary includes trips to the Sabarmati Ashram, the Akshardham Temple and IIM Ahmedabad.
Maybe. Maybe not
Punjab CM Will Meet Canada PM
The issue of Canadian government’s apparent ambivalence on how to deal with Sikh extremists continued to cloud PM Justin Trudeau’s ongoing visit to India, even as Punjab CM Amarinder Singh confirmed that he was going to meet the visiting leader in Amritsar.
The 7-day visit seemed to be making news for all the wrong reasons with the Indian side at pains to deny that PM Narendra Modi not receiving Trudeau at the airport, or not accompanying him to Ahmedabad, was a snub to the visiting leader.
Trudeau and his defence minister Harjit Sajjan, sources here said, finally proposed a meeting with Singh in what is being seen as an attempt to address the strong perception in India that Trudeau’s Liberal government has failed to rein in pro-Khalistan elements active in Canada. Reports from Canada had earlier said that no such meeting had been sought by the Canadian authorities.
While Canadian diplomatic sources chose to not comment on the issue, Singh himself tweeted on Monday evening that he was looking forward to meeting Trudeau in Amritsar on Wednesday.
Official sources here confirmed Canada was initially reluctant to have Trudeau meet Singh because the latter had last year refused to meet Sajjan calling him a Khalistani sympathiser. While Trudeau is likely to reiterate Canada’s position that it fully supports a unified India, India wants Trudeau to also ensure that his Sikh ministers are not seen as endorsing in any way the Khalistan movement.
Another diplomatic headache for India was the perception that Canada, an important supplier of uranium to India which has also backed India’s NSG membership bid to the hilt, was being ignored by the Indian establishment. Trudeau detractors in Canada were quick to claim that Modi had snubbed him by not receiving him at the airport and also by not accompanying him to Ahmedabad, the city Trudeau visited with his family on Monday before flying to Mumbai.
Official sources here said Trudeau had been received by a minister of state in keeping with the protocol. “Really don’t understand the point here as the PM didn’t even receive Chinese President Xi Jinping at the airport,’’ the sources said, adding that going to airport was a departure from protocol and a special gesture shown by the PM for a select few. Modi has so far received former US President Barack Obama, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the airport.
While Trudeau landed in Delhi, he chose to visit Taj Mahal the next day before flying to Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Trudeau will visit Amritsar on Wednesday before arriving in Delhi for an official reception and meeting with Modi on Friday. Sources here termed the itinerary weird saying that the Indian side had repeatedly suggested that Trudeau first have his official engagements in Delhi before travelling to other cities. Trudeau and his officials chose on their own to visit Ahmedabad and at no stage had Modi committed himself to accompanying the Trudeau family to Ahmedabad. Reports in Canadian media highlighted how Modi had earlier accompanied Xi and also Abe and Netanyahu to Ahmedabad.
The issue of Khalistan- advocate Atwal
Trudeau landed in the midst of another controversy today over an invite to a convicted Khalistani terrorist for dinner at the Canadian High Commission
The high commission quickly rescinded the invite but the damage was done
Things appear to be going from bad to worse for Justin Trudeau on his maiden trip to India as Canada's Prime Minister.
He had barely dug himself out of a hole on the issue of supporting Khalistani separatists by proclaiming he was in favour of a united India, and by meeting with Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, when he landed in the midst of another controversy today over an invite to a convicted Khalistani terrorist for a dinner+ at the Canadian High Commissioner's in Delhi.
The Canadian Prime Minister's Office (PMO) quickly cancelled that invite to the terrorist Jaspal Atwal. But the damage had been done, because not only was there the issue of the invite, turns out Atwal had also been photographed with Trudeau's wife Sophie at an event in Mumbai earlier this week.
Atwal, a member of the now-banned International Sikh Youth Federation, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for trying to kill the then Punjab cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu on Vancouver Island in 1986. Atwal later even confessed he was the shooter. (If he began his jail sentence in 1986, and if he served the full term, Atwal would have been released in 2006.)
"This person (Atwal) of course should not have been invited. The invitation has now been rescinded. We are looking into how it happened," said Kirsty Duncan, Canadian Minister for Science & Sports, reported ANI. The Canadian PMO was also at pains to clarify that Atwal wasn't part of the official Canadian delegation and was in India in his private capacity.
"… it's important to be clear that he is not part of official delegation to PM's visit to India, nor was he invited by the PMO. As is the case with international trips, individuals sometimes travel on their own to the location of the visit," said the Canadian PMO.
Trudeau's office didn't comment on the curious coincidence of Atwal timing his private trip to India with that of the state visit by the Canadian Prime Minister.
On his part, an aggrieved sounding Atwal told a Canadian media outlet that he didn't plan to attend the dinner in Delhi anyway as he was in Mumbai on business. He told Canadian news outlet Postmedia Network that he was in India for an online radio station based in Surrey in British Columbia and was not part of the official Canadian delegation.
Atwal further said it was "unfair" to raise his criminal conviction as the crime in question happened a long time ago. He also blamed unnamed "enemies" for circulating the photos Postmedia obtained of himself and Sophie Trudeau at the Mumbai event and stressed that he travelled to India on his own on February 11. A Canadian columnist Candice Malcolm meanwhile posted photos on Twitter of Trudeau with Atwal.
"Trudeau is denying his sympathies for Sikh extremists, while also wining and dining them," she said, posting the invite to Atwal for the Delhi dinner. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy blamed India too for the apparent faux pas. "It was foolish on our part that we didn't do a thorough background check," he told ANI. "And the Canadians who say they don't support Khalistanis how could they have allowed this," asked Swamy.
India trip begins under a cloud
Since his India trip began, Trudeau has been in the eye of a storm on the 'Canadian support for Khalistan' issue. He has four Sikhs in his cabinet, one of whom is Harjit Sajjan, a man Punjab CM Amarinder called a "Khalistani sympathiser" and refused to meet with last year.
Another cabinet minister, Amarjeeet Sohi said earlier this month that he's neither sympathetic to nor against the Khalistan movement, a statement that didn't sit well with India.
Many in Canada said India's annoyance was obvious, given what they called the lukewarm response by New Delhi to Trudeau's visit. They cited the fact that PM Narendra Modi didn't received Trudeau at the airport or accompany him to Ahmedabad. They also cited the fact that Trudeau didn't have Uttar Pradesh's BJP CM Adityanath accompany him to the Taj Mahal.
India denied any purposeful snubbing. Official sources told TOI that Trudeau had been received by a Minister of State in keeping with protocol. They also said it was Canada that insisted that Trudeau's official engagements in Delhi take place towards the end of his 7-day visit.
All along the Canadian PMO was mum. After three days of hectic speculation - 'was it a snub or not?' - Trudeau decided to say something in Mumbai. Trudeau 'supports united India'
His administration and Canada, Trudeau said, are committed to "one united India" and his government was serious about cracking down on extremism. When asked why he had not received a "warm" welcome in India, Trudeau said the relationship was not about just political ties and that he was looking forward to "sitting down" with PM Modi.
Then came news that Amarinder and Trudeau would indeed meet. Some reports said Trudeau didn't want to meet Amarinder because the latter refused to meet Canadian defence minister Sajjan last year. Other reports speculated Amarinder didn't want to meet Trudeau.
Eventually, the two met yesterday in Amritsar. In fact, Sajjan too was part of the Canadian delegation that met Punjab's CM. Trudeau affirmed that his country does not support any separatist movement in India or elsewhere.
Apparently, Trudeau even cited the example of the separatist movement in the Quebec province of Canada and said that he had dealt with such threats all his life and was fully aware of the dangers of violence.
"They (Canada) will not allow anything which will come between us (India and Canada) to create these problems," said Amarinder after the meeting.
Trudeau is now expected to make the same point forcefully when he meets PM Modi tomorrow.
As the Canadian PMO continued damage control throughout the day today, Trudeau kept a poker face - even smiled a couple of times- as he visited the Jama Masjid in Delhi and later swung the willow a bit with cricket greats Kapil Dev and Mohammad Azharuddin.
He will be hoping the 'sewa' - 'service' - he performed at the Golden Temple in Amritsar yesterday will prevent any further hitches.
Canada blames rogue Indian officals for Atwal visa; India rebuts
India slammed as “baseless and unacceptable” a comment by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggesting that former Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal was given a visa as a section of the Indian government wanted to embarrass his government.
Opposition MPs questioned Trudeau in parliament on Tuesday about invitations issued to Atwal — convicted of attempting to assassinate a Punjab minister in 1986 — to attend two events with him in India. National security adviser Daniel Jean’s “anonymous” media briefing last week suggested that Atwal’s presence was arranged by “factions within the Indian government who want to prevent PM Narendra Modi from getting too cosy with a foreign government they believe is not committed to a united India”.
“Does the PM agree with those allegations?” asked opposition leader Andrew Scheer. Trudeau replied, “When one of our top diplomats and security officials says something to Canadians, it is because they know it to be true.”
Govt has nothing to do with invite to Atwal, says MEA
A Canadian newspaper said opposition MPs demanded “proof” from Prime Minister Trudeau to back up his government’s allegations. New Democrat MP Charlie Angus accused Trudeau of using a senior civil servant to “spin a conspiracy theory that somehow the Indian government is trying to make the Liberals look bad”.
In a sharply worded comment, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “Let me categorically state that the government of India, including the security agencies, had nothing to do with the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the event hosted by the Canadian high commissioner in Mumbai or the invitation issued to him for the Canadian high commissioner's reception in New Delhi. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unacceptable.”
As reported by TOI, the Indian government has taken a dim view of Jean’s briefing that “rogue elements” in the Indian establishment had let in Atwal into the country. But, as the media and politicians in Canada themselves pointed out, Jean’s charge made little sense because it was the Canadian delegation that had invited Atwal to the events in Mumbai and Delhi. In fact, a Canadian Liberal MP, Randeep S Sarai, took responsibility and tweeted an apology. “I want to again apologise for my role in recent unfortunate events. Moving forward, I will be exercising better judgment. As I don't want to distract from the good work of the Pacific Caucus, I will be stepping down as caucus chair.”
Atwal is among a group of Canadian-Indians who have been taken off the blacklist by the Indian government as it seeks to engage with many of them.
Trudeau visit can trigger reset of India-Canada ties
Four out of the six cabinet ministers who travelled with Trudeau were Sikh, as were an overwhelming number of MPs who also travelled with him
Analysts think, Trudeau came to India to score with his Sikh constituency back home
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s visit was a disaster that has little parallel in India’s recent diplomatic history. But as the Canadian prime minister returned home on Saturday after almost a week of recurrent diplomatic missteps, ironically, it may have provided the opportunity to reset relations between Canada and India.
Indian government officials were angry at suggestions by Canadian officials that India was responsible for Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal getting a visa to India and used his presence to embarrass Trudeau.
Trudeau, in his meeting with prime minister Narendra Modi, also complained that his visit had been shadowed by a single issue. Atwal got a visa because he was taken off the blacklist some years ago. But he was part of a number of Trudeau’s own events that did not involve the Indian government at all.
A prime ministerial visit to a foreign country for a week with a thin official component is always fraught with danger. In addition, moving the official meetings to the very end of the trip indicated that the government meetings were an after-thought. Most foreign leaders who throw in other events almost always front-load the official meetings, and then go on to business or tourism events.
Here, it was clear from the start that Trudeau came to India to score with his Sikh constituency back home — four out of the six cabinet ministers who travelled with him were Sikh, as were an overwhelming number of MPs who also travelled with him. Until the media barrage in India forced the Canadian side to change tack, Trudeau was not even ready to meet Amarinder Singh, chief minister of Punjab. Even the Canadian high commissioner’s official reception was a celebration of Punjab with the prime minister himself waltzing in on bhangra beats.
The most glaring misstep was not that Trudeau and his family dressed up in gaudy clothes — that could pass off as a celebration of Indian ethnic chic even if it was slightly over the top. It was Canada’s misunderstanding of the depth of feeling in India on the Khalistan issue. Canadian officials compared the Khalistan issue to the Quebec separatist movement — which counted a single death (of a minister, Pierre Laporte) as opposed to the tens of thousands who were killed at the hands of Khalistanis. Over the years, successive Indian governments have tried to get Canadian governments to change their minds.
“Canada is the only country where the head of government is comfortable to be seen with Sikh separatists,” said senior government sources. There are Khalistani activists in the UK and Australia, but in no country is the government seen to be pandering to these forces. In the event, the joint statement issued at the end of the week-long visit, which named the Babbar Khalsa and International Sikh Youth Federation along with al-Qaida and ISIS, passed everyone by. There is no political cost either — both these groups have been banned in Canada. Officials said they had flagged the Khalistan problem to the Canadian side before the visit began, including at the NSA level during the last round of security talks.
As for Modi not showing up at the airport to greet Trudeau, first, there is reciprocity involved in these gestures — Netanyahu and UAE crown prince both received Modi at the airport. The Canadian expectation was unfounded also in view of the fact that the bilateral relationship is not deep enough to warrant that break from protocol.
The official discussions, when they happened, threw up a lot of good stuff — for instance, Canada got some much-needed comfort from India on pulses, as well as a separate pact on tackling terrorism. But it may take a long time to change perceptions, particularly if Trudeau goes back to the same old after his return.
Why Trudeau’s disaster trip may be blessing in disguise
Ironically, It May Trigger A Reset In Indo-Canada Relations
Justin Trudeau’s visit was a disaster that has little parallel in India’s recent diplomatic history. But as the Canadian Prime Minister returned home on Saturday after almost a week of recurrent diplomatic missteps, ironically, it may have provided the opportunity to reset relations between Canada and India.
Indian government officials were angry at suggestions by Canadian officials that India was responsible for Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal getting a visa to India and used his presence to embarrass Trudeau. Trudeau, in his meeting with PM Modi, also complained that his visit had been shadowed by a single issue. Atwal got a visa because he was taken off the blacklist some years ago. But he was part of a number of Trudeau’s own events that did not involve the Indian government at all.
A prime ministerial visit to a foreign country for a week with a thin official component is always fraught with danger.
In addition, by moving the official meetings to the very end of the trip, it indicated to everyone that the government meetings were an afterthought. Most foreign leaders who throw in other events almost always front-load the official meetings, and then go on to business or tourism events.
Here, it was clear from the start that Trudeau came to India to score with his Sikh constituency back home — four out of the six cabinet ministers who travelled with him were Sikh, as were an overwhelming number of MPs who also travelled with him. Until the media barrage in India forced the Canadian side to change tack, Trudeau was not even ready to meet Amarinder SinghCM of Punjab, where he was doing a photoop at the Golden Temple. Even the Canadian high commissioner’s official reception was a celebration of Punjab with the Prime Minister himself waltzing to bhangra beats.
The most glaring misstep was not that Trudeau and his family dressed up in gaudy clothes — that could pass off as a celebration of Indian ethnic chic even if it was slightly over the top. It was Canada’s misunderstanding of the depth of feeling in India on the Khalistan issue. Canadian officials compared the Khalistan issue to the Quebec separatist movement — which counted a single death (of a minister, Pierre Laporte) as opposed to thousands who were killed at the hands of Khalistanis. Over the years, Indian governments have tried to get Canadian governments to change their minds.
Over 100,000/- Indian students study in Canada. Education is a key area of collaboration between the two countries. The MOU on Cooperation in Higher Education was signed in June 2010, which covers student and faculty exchange, research and curriculum development, organization of workshop and seminars, twining between institutions of higher learning, facilitate mutual recognition of educational qualifications, policy dialogue in areas of mutual interest, among others.
IC-IMPACTS (the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability), which is a Canada-India Research Centre of Excellence dedicated to the development of research collaborations between Canada and India, seeks to bring together researchers, industry innovators, community leaders, government agencies, and community organizations from across India and Canada to work together to find solutions to the key challenges facing the communities. IC-IMPACTS is working with the National Mission for Clean Ganga to find innovative technological solutions to clean the river Ganga; the 'Water for Health' collaboration with Department of Biotechnology and with DST on 'Safe and Sustainable Infrastructure' and 'Integrated Water-Management' initiatives.
Justin Trudeau and Khalistani groups
When Justin Trudeau became Canada's prime minister in 2015, Surinder Kumar, an accountant in Montreal, recalled the day eight years earlier when the son of the country's former PM Pierre Trudeau had walked into his office. The younger Trudeau was asking for Kumar's support in his nomination for a Liberal Party ticket from a parliamentary 'riding' or constituency in Montreal.
Kumar was a founder of the India Canada Organization, a group started in 2003 to organise cultural events, including the annual India Day parade in August in the Greater Montreal area. Trudeau wanted to reach out to the Indo-Canadian community, and Kumar became a fundraiser for his campaign. Over the past decade, Trudeau has attended the India Day parade in Montreal four times, the first time before he became an MP.
By the time Trudeau attended the parade last year, his first as PM, he was fighting off disquiet in the Indo-Canadian community and concerns in India that his government was enabling pro-Khalistan elements. It's a perception that has persisted despite his government's profession of its desire to strengthen ties with India. Trudeau may have only himself to blame.
When he unveiled his multi-cultural cabinet in 2015, the initial euphoria about the four Indian faces in the group soon gave way to the realisation that they were all Sikhs, some with alleged ties to Khalistan supporters. In fact, Trudeau attended a Khalsa Day event in Toronto where Khalistan flags and the portrait of former Khalistani militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale were displayed. In Ontario province, ruled by Trudeau's Liberal Party, the legislature passed a resolution last year condemning the "genocide" of Sikhs in India in 1984. Also last year, Canada's High Commissioner to India had to issue an apology after the Indian government reacted sharply when a former CRPF officer was initially denied entry at Vancouver airport on the grounds that he had served a government that engaged in "terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, or genocide".
Vishnu Prakash, India's High Commissioner to Canada when Trudeau became PM, says, "The Khalistan issue was sputtering in Canada and of late, the Conservative (Party) politicians had started shying away from the Khalistan platform, whereas the New Democratic Party and Liberals continue to appear on Khalistani platforms." Adds Ajit Someshwar, the Toronto-based Chair of the Canada India Foundation (CIF), "Trudeau is entrenched with groups that were not well disposed towards the Indian government and the Indian Union. Some of his principal funders had said in the past that Sikhs should have a separate state and they have?created a downward trend in what was going to be a strategic relationship." Prakash notes, "Sikhs are an important segment of the Indo-Canadian community, but some of the self-appointed or recognised leaders are trying to create a different identity for the Sikh community."
However, even Trudeau's domestic critics concede he is no different from any politician in a democracy playing to his base. Says Someshwar, "We're talking about a limited number of people, but they are able to mobilise a lot of money and a lot of numbers for Trudeau, so he won't be able to shake them off very easily."
Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Vancouver-based Angus Reid Institute, a leading public opinion research organisation, says the Khalistan issue does not resonate with most Canadians, who are largely inclined to view India favourably.
Indo-Canadians make up nearly 1.4 million, or over 3.5 per cent, of Canada's population, with almost equal numbers of Hindus and Sikhs, according to Statistics Canada. But Sikhs have been far more politically active. "The non-Sikh community is concerned that Trudeau's too close to them. Non-Sikhs don't participate in politics; Sikhs are where they are due to their participation," says Kumar.
Sikhs in Canada are also concentrated in a few ridings in Ontario and British Columbia provinces, where they can swing elections. Other Indian communities are spread across the country and are only now beginning to engage politically. Trudeau has not exactly ignored them, having attended many Diwali celebrations. The ongoing demographic shift among Indo-Canadians is likely to challenge the political influence of the Sikhs, albeit slowly. India is among Canada's top source countries for immigrants and foreign students, and they are now drawn from all across India, not just Punjab. These changes could alter political equations, especially if Trudeau is able to broaden his support base.
BUSINESS OVER POLITICS
Even as it fights off lingering suspicions of supporting pro-Khalistan elements, the Trudeau government has gone out of its way in its India outreach. Eleven ministers from his cabinet have visited India in the past 18 months. Kasi Rao, president and CEO of the Canada India Business Council (C-IBC), says, "I'd be hard pressed to think of any other country where 11 Canadian cabinet ministers have gone, perhaps only to the US. India's very much at the top of the agenda on the trade and commercial side."
Bilateral trade with India, which stands at $8 billion annually-less than half a week's worth of Canada's trade with the US-could receive a boost if long-running negotiations on economic agreements move forward. Kanwar Dhanjal, president of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC), which, along with C-IBC and CIF, is organising two business forums in Mumbai and Delhi during Trudeau's visit, says he is hopeful of progress despite political irritants.
Understandably, concerns over any signs of the Khalistan movement's re-emergence are much more magnified in India than in Canada. Indians and Indo-Canadians will expect Trudeau to dispel any doubts on this front. Trudeau's fancy footwork and effortless charm are well-known around the world; he may need to turn them on full force in India.
Visas issued to Indians
Fast-track visas approved by Canada, for Indians and others, June- Sept 2017