With increasing synergies in defence, research and development, healthcare and energy, the potential for Indo-Canadian relations seems as wide as the great white north itself.
When it comes to bilateral bonhomie, India and Canada have always flown a bit under the radar and while the two countries have always enjoyed a good bilateral relationship, it hasn't always quite lived up to its potential. Yet, as the world struggles to cope under the cross of the coronavirus pandemic, the Indo-Canada relationship has been quietly building a stronger bond. Merchandise trade between the two has gone up 24 per cent during Covid-19 times and the investment from Canada to India has grown from US $5 billion to US $60 billion in the last 5 to 6 years. There has been a renewed interest on both sides on strengthening collaboration in agriculture and agritech. And Canadian funds have invested more than USD 60 billion in a range of sectors in India.
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In recent report, India′s High Commissioner to Canada, Ajay Bisaria said, “The Strategic India-Canada economic partnership was moving to the next level in business and political terms and often the business led the political side. “We are working on trade agreements and having a conversation on investment protection agreement. There is a strong inflow of immigrants and students from India to Canada. India is investing in human capital in Canada and Canada is exporting financial capital to India."
Despite the pandemic, India Canada bilateral trade has grown to more than USD 10 billion. Canada's FDI in India was slightly less in value (US $2.273 billion) as what India's FDI was into Canada (US $2.561 billion).
Canada is an important source of primary produce to India, including uranium, potash and bituminous coal. While India exports pharmaceuticals, steel and IT services to Canada. Speaking to Business Standard on the Indo-Canadian food trade, Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI), Chairman, Mohit Singla said, "Canada can be an important market for the Indian F&B industry as it has a large population (approx 2.4 million) of Indian diaspora. Outreach to the mainstream market is the biggest challenge for the Indian F&B industry." The new boost in bilateral interests seems to be focussed on select few sectors:
India is a major market for Canadian Agriculture and agri-food products, being the fifth largest importer of Canadian vegetables and raw agricultural materials and the seventh largest importer of leguminous vegetables. At the same time, Canada's state-of-the-art technologies in agriculture can be leveraged by India to revolutionise agricultural production and techniques.
In a recent India-Canada Agri-Tech Virtual Seminar organised by the Indo-Canadian Business Chamber (ICBC) Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food of the Government of Canada, Mary-Claude Bibeau highlighted the fact that Canada and India have a proud history of strong bilateral trade and collaboration in agriculture, with a vibrant trading relationship in agriculture and agri-food, valued at over $1.5 billion. Adding that in India, rapid economic growth is driving new consumer demands and preferences, and Canada can help India meet those demands through scientific and technological expertise in food processing, food safety and transportation infrastructure. Minister Bibeau concluded by reiterating that as we look to the future, expanding and diversifying mutual trade and investment opportunities between Canada and India, will also help both economies recover after the pandemic
Canada was a partner country for the Technology Summit 2017, held in New Delhi on 14-15 November 2017. Under the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnership to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability (IC-IMPACTS) program between DST and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Canada (NSERC) Canada, ten projects are under implementation in the areas of Safe and Sustainable Infrastructure, Energy conservation and Integrated Water Management. DST has been also supporting Industrial R&D projects with Canada which have potential for application. IC-IMPACTS has a huge potential to strengthen Canada-India scientific research collaborations leading to community deployments and commercialisation, particularly in waste management and river clean-up programs in India.
And with its neighbour, the US, currently putting a pause on H1B visas, Canada has much to gain in terms of attracting Indian tech talent.
Canada continues to be one of the leading destinations for Indian students looking to study overseas. In fact 200,000 Indian students went over to Canada to pursue higher education in 2019. The two countries have significantly enhanced education and skills training through various institutional collaborations and MOUs. In fact, there are about 300 MoUs between institutions of higher learning in India and Canada. The MoU on Higher Education (2010) with Canada was renewed in February 2018. Under this MoU, 2nd Joint Working Group meeting was held on 26-28 February 2019 in Ottawa to oversee and implement the MoU.
Of course, these sectors are merely the tip of the perennial iceberg. With increasing synergies in defence, research and development, healthcare and energy, the potential for Indo-Canadian relations seems as wide as the great white north.