Saying that the ‘Shared Vision’ of both Canada and India is deep rooted in the values of democracy, Mr. Christopher Alexander, former Minister of Immigration and Citizenship in Canada, stressed the need for an Indo-Canadian partnership to take forward this vision.
Giving the talk, The potential of an Indo-Canadian partnership in a changing world, at Observer Research Foundation on June 15, Mr. Alexander pointed out how Canada and India converge on the subjects of a substantive economic agenda, terrorism and migration. More importantly, he defined the need for a ‘Shared Vision’ between the two countries to overcome the challenges of the changing world.
With the European Union undergoing a political change and Asia being home to a non-democracy like China, the leadership role to promote the democratic values lies with India and Canada, Mr. Alexander said.
The ‘Shared Vision’ of both the countries is deep rooted in the values of democracy. There is a common vision in reducing poverty levels, to sustain balanced growth and to sustain liberalised trade regimes. The realisation of this vision can happen via responsible and active behaviour by nation states at the international level.
Addressing the broad topic of a substantive economic agenda, Mr. Alexander highlighted five major issues where the two nations have engaged and have a tremendous growth potential. He pointed out that Canada recognises India’s need for energy security via oil and gas, renewable sources and nuclear energy. The former minister voiced his support for India’s early membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and continuous engagement in technology exchange.
Secondly, on the topic of agriculture, Mr. Alexander rightly pointed out how Canada is one of the top exporters of Indian staples. The Saskatchewan province in Canada accounts for 30 percent of lentils exported to the Indian market. Moving on, the former Minister underlined the significance of human capital resource and education that spurs the service driven economy of India. Canada and India can cooperate on the growth of the education sector in India.
Mr. Alexander argued against the notion of the Indian manufacturing industry being ‘anaemic’ put forward by a few Indian media personnel. The manufacturing industry has become smaller and more efficient. He stressed upon how the service industry has been responsible for Indian and global economic growth. Lastly, he listed infrastructural engagement as an enabling factor in the substantive economic agenda. He noted that primarily Canadian companies may not be the principal investors; however the partnership has grown in the last two to three years due to the involvement of infrastructure firms. The Canadian Pension Fund Company Caisse de depot and Tata have come together for energy and infrastructure projects. He listed the Canadian model of pension plan investment board as one which India can replicate.
The second main challenge that the world faces is terrorism. With the activities of terrorist groups like ISIS focused mainly within the region, Mr. Alexander emphasised on how Canada and India have been relatively immune from it. The real danger, as stated by Mr. Alexander, lies in a shift from regional to international focus of these groups. According to him, the usage of political tools should be established as a method to counter terrorism. Terming Pakistan as a state that sponsor terrorism and allows leaders and members of terror groups like the Taliban to roam freely, the minister insisted on imposing sanctions or curbing the international activities of Pakistan.
Lastly, Mr. Alexander brought up the challenge of migration. Canada is at a point where it requires being strong in protecting global openness. The country has been supporting the refugees and ensuring that the ones who come via secured vessels are provided basic social security by the state. As for India, he insisted on educational exchanges between the two countries.
The talk, chaired by Mr. Rakesh Sood, Distinguished Fellow at ORF and a former ambassador, concluded with the analysis that in terms of sustaining international peace, the United States has made it clear to its allies that it shall no longer carry the weight of others. Thereby, countries like India and Canada have to step up. Terrorism, Migration and the Global Economic System form the prime agenda of the vision that Canada and India share.
This report is prepared by Vatsal Chandra, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.