India, Canada poised for new highs in relations

Toronto, Sep 6 (IANS) Indo-Canadian relations are poised for a leap growth in the coming years, says the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC).

The premier trade and business body between the two countries says the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi here in April has put the growing bilateral ties on a fast track.

“Canada was not willing much to engage with India till a few years ago when it supported India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008. After that, things started moving and then we signed the nuclear deal. During the past four-five years, our relationship has really taken off,” ICCC president Sanjay Makkar told IANS.

Modi’s visit – the first stand-alone visit to Canada by any Indian prime minister in 42 years – and his chemistry with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper who spent almost 50 hours with him – was a new milestone in the bilateral relationship, said Makkar.

“Modi’s visit started a new era in India-Canada relations. Canada signed the agreement to supply uranium to India during the visit and so much is now happening in our relations. Canadians are showing a lot more interest in India now.

“More top-level delegations have started visiting each others’ countries to explore new areas of cooperation.

“A FICCI delegation is coming here later this month, with its focus on infrastructure investment, large projects, real estate. And Canadian trade missions are going to India.”

Because of new streamlined Canadian immigration rules, he said, more and more skilled Indians were able to come to Canada.

“On the other hand, Canadian universities and colleges are rushing to India tie up with Indian institutions and even set up campuses there. Many have signed exchange programmes with their Indian counterparts.

“The number of Indian students in Canada has suddenly grown many fold – from a mere 3,000-4,000 just a few years ago to almost 30,000 now.”

Pointing to the start of direct Toronto-Delhi flights by Air Canada from November as another sign of deepening ties, Makkar said tourism would be another big area between the two countries.

“We at the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce have just created a tourism and hospitality committee to focus on this vital area.”

He said once India and Canada sign the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), it would unleash the true potential of their bilateral relationship.

“CEPA has been under discussion for some time as Canadians have apprehensions about red-tape, corruption… But India now recognizes that Canada is an important player for it as it has the resources and knowhow in infrastructure, renewable energy, education, areas India is focusing on. The two governments are keen to sign CEPA at the earliest.”

The CEPA, coupled with the 1.2-million-strong Indian diaspora, would propel India-Canada relations to an altogether new levels, Makkar said.

Per capita, the Indo-Canadian community is the biggest Indian diaspora group anywhere in the world.

“Indo-Canadians have become visible everywhere and hold top positions in so many areas. They are a big factor in our growing India-Canada relations,” said the chamber president.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at gurmukh.s@ians.in)

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