Canada is ‘Making in India’

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In an exclusive interview with Diplomatist Editor-at-Large Alankar Srivastava, H.E. Nadir Patel, High Commissioner of Canada to India, talks at length about various aspects of the bilateral relationship, the role of Indian diaspora and much more. Excerpts...

Q. Do you think the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Toronto in April 2015, the first standalone visit by any Indian prime minister in 42 years, provided the much-needed momentum to the growing bilateral relationship between Canada and India?

The visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the first standalone visit by any Indian prime minister in 42 years, was significant. Though there have been ups and downs over the years, I believe the relationship between Canada and India is currently stronger than it has ever been. The primary goal now is to keep the momentum going.

We have a new government in Canada and for us, India remains a top priority. At the recent Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally met his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau and reviewed bilateral ties including the progress on nuclear cooperation. The two leaders had also exchanged informally on the sidelines of the COP21 and G20.

Q. Both Canada and India are realising the huge potential that exists in trade and business relations. Give us a sense of the economic linkages that exist between the two countries.

The economic story is definitely strong. The growth of 28 percent in bilateral trade to $8.2 billion in 2015, compared with $6.4 billion in the previous year, reflects the conducive business environment and relations between the two nations. Over 700 Canadian companies are doing business in India and there is potential for more. Two-way investment is also rising.

Q. Canada is renowned for its expertise in civil aviation, design technology for reactors and waste management. Are there mechanisms in place wherein India can benefit?

Canada is well positioned to offer its expertise to India in the sectors of civil aviation, nuclear energy and smart cities.

A delegation of top Canadian companies participated in India Aviation 2016 in Hyderabad in March. We see great opportunity in rotary aircraft (helicopters), which are extremely useful for emergency search and rescue and gaining access to remote locations. Canadian companies have some excellent products in this space, and they also have great expertise in the design and development of aircraft, airports, training (including advanced simulators) and in maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities.

In the nuclear sector, there is huge scope in the sale of uranium to India, providing technology for Kandu reactors, and sharing of expertise in nuclear waste management.

Q. The Indian government’s flagship schemes such as ‘Make in India’ and ‘Smart Cities’ provide ample scope for collaboration. Do you see an active participation of Canada in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for India?

‘Make in India’ is revitalising the manufacturing sector, which also means that the country needs to skill its workforce, an area where Canada can contribute. We are committed to play an active part in the vision of the Narendra Modi government by ‘Making in India’. In fact, approximately 400 companies have a physical presence in India and some of them manufacture here.

Infrastructure is another area where the two countries can engage. Smart Cities - airports, urban planning, urban design, railway stations, public-private partnerships, hospitals, and even large scale multiple residential housing complexes - can witness intense collaboration between the two nations.

Q. Apart from the infrastructure sector, are the two countries mulling cooperation in defence technology and electronics?

Non-trade defence cooperation is already taking place at multiple levels - training exercises, ships’ visit, etc. Our trade defence cooperation is modest, but there is potential for growth. Canada has a strong defence technology sector that could meet some of India’s needs.

Q. Do you sense a change in the business environment in India since the Narendra Modi government came to power in May 2014?

Yes, the vision is there. The fact that the Modi Govt realises the importance of ease of doing business is the first step, and certainly they are moving in the right direction. However, and even though we recognise that those things take time, we want to see more concrete steps being taken to facilitate business. Canada is in India for the long haul, and we are keen to engage with central and state governments.

Q. Cultural diplomacy is gaining traction worldwide. What role can the 1.2 million-strong Indian diaspora play in further strengthening the relations between our two nations?

Canada values diversity, multiculturalism and pluralism. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named the most diverse Cabinet in Canadian history, featuring an equal number of men and women. There are also four ministers in the Cabinet who trace their roots back to India.

The 1.2-million-strong Indian diaspora are ambassadors of Canada-India relations, and are successful in various spheres. They are giving back to India in more ways than one, and their contribution to Canada-India relations must be leveraged.

Q. Last but not least, any timeframe by which India and Canada can sign the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)?

I can’t give a timeframe as far as Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement is concerned; such agreements take time to conclude. It is important to create a mechanism which both nations will consider beneficial. A Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (BIPA) - which we call Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement or FIPPA in Canada would be another important component of our trade and investment relations.

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