Trudeau travels to India

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India this week will reinforce and underline our growing people-to-people ties. The economic relationship is less buoyant, but if Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi can deliver on his promised domestic reforms, there is the potential for more two-way trade and investment.

With stops in Agra, Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, as well as New Delhi, it will be a rare session that does not include some reference to family living or studying in Canada.

The Indian diaspora includes several members in the Canadian Parliament, with four members in the Trudeau cabinet. Nearly 4 per cent of Canadians claim Indian decent, with 40,000 Indians migrating to Canada last year. The 124,000 Indians studying in Canada are our second-largest group of foreign students. No surprise that tourism is also on the rise, with more than 210,000 Indians visiting Canada last year. There are daily and non-stop flights.

India definitely deserves Canadian attention.

India will soon surpass China in population, with one-sixth of humanity. It is also the world’s largest democracy, which is a cacophony of caste and creeds. The two Prime Ministers will empathize over the challenges of managing federations with strong sectional and regional pressures. Some of these, such as the Sikh separatist movement, play into Canadian affairs.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Mr. Modi was forceful in his embrace of globalization. He described his “New India” reform agenda and its pillars of structural reform: technological governance; physical infrastructure; business facilitation; and inclusive development. Designed to give “good administration and better amenities,” Canada needs to identify the niche opportunities within each pillar.

Trade and investment will figure in every discussion. Investment from Canadian pension funds in real estate and other sectors has picked up in the past couple of years.

With its steady GDP growth, India is expected to become the third-largest consumer market by 2025.

But Canada and India are still some distance from long-promised deals on foreign investment and closer economic relations.

The foreign-investment protection agreement negotiated by the Paul Martin and Stephen Harper governments that was concluded in 2007 has yet to be implemented. Free-trade negotiations began in 2010. The six-month “road map” to its achievement, that Mr. Harper and Mr. Modi enthused about during the Indian Prime Minister’s Canadian visit in April, 2015, has yet to materialize.

Much of the problem lies, as the World Bank consistently reports, with India’s trade restrictiveness. Mr. Modi talks a good show on reform and, while he is making some progress, the structural impediments are deep and entrenched.

There is also, notwithstanding Mr. Modi’s declaration in Davos, Indian protectionism.

The imposition late last year of a 50-per-cent import tariff on peas and a 30-per-cent tariff on chickpeas and lentils should be high on Mr. Trudeau’s discussions with Mr. Modi. Agricultural sales to India are a major market, especially for Prairie farmers.

Mr. Trudeau will likely get a receptive hearing on climate and the progressive trade agenda that can be parleyed into useful initiatives.

Mr. Modi will raise Indo-Pacific security and likely ask about Canadian capacity and capabilities. Indian policy under Mr. Modi has shifted from “Look East” to “Act East.” His “Neighbourhood First” policy is roughly analogous to the Trudeau government’s new “Strong, Secure, Engaged” defence policy. At last month’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum, there were discussions about the “congagement” – containment and engagement – of China. Mr. Trudeau should listen to Mr. Modi’s perspective.

With the Trans-Pacific Partnership now a reality and likely to be implemented later this year, our trade in the Pacific will only increase. It will oblige more attention and commitment to Indo-Pacific security.

The tempo of Indo-Pacific activity by our Esquimalt-based warships has picked up. HMCS Chicoutimi, one of our Victoria-class submarines, is completing a nearly six month successful Pacific exercise that also took it to Japan. If we want to be seen as a serious Indo-Pacific partner, the current tempo will be seen as the bare minimum.

Mr. Trudeau’s India visit is his longest yet to a single country. The Indian backdrop will provide a spectacular picturesque travelogue against a celebration of family ties. But real success will also require serious and continuing conversations on trade and security.

A Conversation with Indian High Commissioner Vikas Swarup

February 12, 2018

On today’s Global Exchange Podcast, we speak with the Indian High Commissioner to Canada, Vikas Swarup. Join Colin and High Commissioner Swarup for a discussion on the High Commissioner’s career, his impressions of Canada, the importance of Canada-India relations, and the significance of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s upcoming visit to India.

Participant Biographies

  • Colin Robertson (host): A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
  • Vikas Swarup: High Commissioner of India to Canada.

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Canada, North Korea and Ballistic Missile Defence

North Korea’s threats show that Canada needs to be part of U.S. missile defence pact

Special to The Globe and Mail Published Wednesday, Apr. 03 2013, 9:27 AM EDT

(see also Andy Radia’s Canada Politics report and CTV report on Minister Toews  Question Period interview .)

Canadian prime ministers have three files with a permanent place on their desks: national security, national unity and the U.S. relationship. When those files intersect, they require special attention.

Sooner rather than later, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to reconsider the Canadian decision to stay out of Ballistic Missile Defence.

The catalyst is North Korea.

Kim Jong-Un is the third in his family to lead the Hermit Kingdom, and this month has all but declared war – including threats to target North America. Normally, sabre rattling by tinpot dictators can be managed or contained. But not when the sabres are ballistic missiles.

“Nuclear threats are not a game,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned on Tuesday: “Aggressive rhetoric and military posturing only result in counter-actions, and fuel fear and instability.”

Coupled with the improvements that Iran is making to its own ballistic missile capacity, the threat to North America is now clear and present. The United States has moved aircraft and warships to the area and announced that it will increase its ground-based interceptors in California and Alaska.

Canada has a conflicted history when it comes to nuclear weapons and domestic defence from them. Though we were present at the creation – nuclear-energy research during the Second World War in Canada was vital – we eschewed the development of nuclear arms for ourselves. Instead, we opted to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes through the CANDU reactor.  (We were later deceived by the Indians, who developed their own nuclear weaponry using plutonium derived from a research reactor provided by Canada.)

Placement of nuclear warheads on Canadian soil, as part of our alliance commitment, tormented John Diefenbaker and the resulting BOMARC controversy contributed to his government’s undoing. Lester B. Pearson, who succeeded Mr. Diefenbaker as prime minister, faced similar dissent but concluded that our obligations to NORAD and NATO required participation. Mr. Pearson, who had won the Nobel Peace Prize over the Suez crisis, was derisively labelled the ‘defrocked prince of peace’ by a young Pierre Trudeau.

Two decades later, prime minister Trudeau faced similar divisions in his own cabinet over testing of cruise missiles on Canadian soil. Mr. Trudeau allowed the testing, arguing that “it is hardly fair to rely on the Americans to protect the West, but to refuse to lend them a hand when the going gets rough.”

In good company (with Australia, France et al), prime minister Brian Mulroney rejected participation in the U.S. “Star Wars” missile-defence program because Canada “would not be able to call the shots.”

When Ballistic Missile Defence was developed under George W. Bush, prime minister Paul Martin opted out, to the confusion of his new defence chief and ambassador to the United States, both of whom thought that he was going to sign on.

A divided Liberal caucus, especially the opposition from Quebec, had helped change Mr. Martin’s mind.

Mr. Bush was advised that newly-elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper would not welcome a renewed request. Mr. Bush found this puzzling, reportedly asking what would happen if a North Korean missile, aimed at Los Angeles or Seattle, wound up heading towards Vancouver or Calgary.

The rest of the alliance, as well as Australia, Japan and South Korea, have signed onto missile defence. The Israelis’ Iron Dome recently demonstrated the defensive worth of anti-missile technology.

Critics see Ballistic Missile Defence as a latter-day Maginot Line – costly, unreliable, and provocative. If you want to detonate a nuclear bomb in the United States you would not send it by missile. NORAD, they argue, provides sufficient defence. But continental defence has been integral to Canadian national security since MacKenzie King and Franklin Roosevelt parleyed at Kingston in 1938. We were architects of NATO because of our belief in collective security.

The U.S. defence umbrella has guaranteed the peace since 1945, and has coincided with the greatest growth in trade in world history. Canada has been a principal beneficiary, with marginal premiums. Some Canadians, wrote Mr. Trudeau during the cruise missile debate, “are eager to take refuge under the U.S. umbrella, but don’t want to help hold it.”

Membership in the alliance entails obligations. But it also brings great benefits that serve our national interests.

Incorporating our satellite and land-based tracking facilities into Ballistic Missile Defence could make a difference in shielding Canadians should the missiles be launched. A Senate report in 2006 concluded that an effective BMD “could save hundreds of thousands of Canadian lives.”

Protecting Canadians (and Americans) was the logic of the original DEW line and NORAD, our bi-national aerospace defence agreement that has served us since 1958 and now includes aspects of maritime defence.

Last summer, ministers John Baird and Peter McKay prepared a memorandum for Mr. Harper presenting Ballistic Missile Defence options. The Prime Minister decided the timing was not right. Circumstances have changed. BMD should now be incorporated into our ‘Canada First’ defence strategy.

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