Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy

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    In Context

    • The indo-Pacific strategy announced by Canada uses blunt language against China and sees closer engagement with India as critical to its success. 

    Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy

    • Canada seeks to be an active player in seizing the region’s multiple opportunities and making its contribution in addressing the existing and emerging strategic challenges. 
    • Five objectives outlined by the strategy: 
      • Promote peace, resilience and security; 
      • Expand trade, investment and supply chain resilience; 
      • Invest in and connect people; 
      • Build a sustainable and green future; 
      • Be an active and engaged partner to the Indo-Pacific. 
    • The strategy contains: 
      • A funding commitment of US $1.7 billion over five years, 
      • Spread over infrastructure projects through the US-led G7 Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, 
      • US $403 million for an enhanced military presence including a third frigate in the Indian Ocean, and 
      • Expanded participation in regional military exercises.
    • Blunt language against China:
      • It outlines the China challenge, with concerns about China’s strategic and motivated investments, coercive approaches, arbitrary application of laws, military capabilities, and attempts to realign the international order to its advantage.
    • Engagement with India: 
      • Engagement with India is seen as critical to the strategy.

    Significance

    • Choosing “Asia Pacific” over “Indo-Pacific”:
      • Canada, 20 per cent of whose population originates in the Indo-Pacific region, is the last G7 nation to embrace the concept of the Indo-Pacific.  
        • It has been more comfortable earlier with “Asia Pacific”.
    • Change in Canada’s China policy:
      • From last year, a series of steps signalled a change in Canada’s China policy, including a sudden tightening of investment rules to prevent Chinese state companies from taking control of its critical minerals and mines industry. 
      • Canada’s Parliament passed a resolution to declare China’s treatment of its Uighur minority as “genocide”.
        • It also banned Huawei 5G. 

    India-Canada Bilateral Relations

    • About:
      • India established diplomatic relations with Canada in 1947
      • Prime Minister of India’s visit to Canada in April 2015 elevated the bilateral relation to a strategic partnership. 
      • In recent years, both countries have been working to enhance bilateral cooperation in a number of areas of mutual importance.
    • Commercial relations:
      • An annualised Trade Ministers dialogue has been institutionalised to review trade and economic relations. 
      • Both sides are engaged in technical negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) including trade in goods, services, investment, trade facilitation etc. 
    • Nuclear Cooperation:
      • Indo-Canadian relations deteriorated in the wake of India’s Smiling Buddha nuclear test of May 1974 when the Canadian government severed bilateral nuclear cooperation with both India and Pakistan.
      • However, in June 2010, a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) with Canada was signed and came into force in September 2013. 
        • The Appropriate Arrangement (AA)  for the NCA was signed in March 2013, under which a Joint Committee on Civil Nuclear Cooperation was constituted.
    • Science and Technology: 
      • Indo-Canadian Science and Technology cooperation has been primarily focussed on promoting Industrial R&D which has potential for application through the development of new IP, processes, prototypes or products. 
        • Canada was a partner country for the Technology  Summit 2017.
    • Space: 
      • India and Canada have been pursuing successful cooperative and commercial relations in the field of Space since the 1990s mainly on space science, earth observation, satellite launch services and ground support for space missions. 
      • ISRO and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) signed two MOUs in the field of exploration and utilisation of outer space in October 1996 and March 2003. 
      • ANTRIX, the Commercial arm of ISRO, has launched several nanosatellites from Canada. 
      • ISRO in its 100th Satellite PSLV launched on 12 January 2018, also flew the Canadian first LEO satellite, from the Indian spaceport  Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.
    • Security and Defence:
      • India and Canada collaborate closely in international fora, particularly through the UN, Commonwealth and G-20
      • Defence ties have been expanding with mutual ship visits. 
      • There is robust cooperation on counter-terrorism issues, particularly through the framework of the JWG on Counter-Terrorism. 
    • Agriculture: 
      • The bilateral MoU on agriculture cooperation was signed at the federal level in 2009. 
      • The first meeting of the JWG set under this MoU was held in New Delhi in 2010, which led to the creation of three sub-groups on knowledge exchange in emerging technologies; animal development and agricultural marketing. A Joint Working Group for Pulses has been set up separately. 
    • People-to-People ties:
      • Canada hosts one of the largest Indian diasporas in the world, numbering 1.6 million  (PIOs and NRIs) which account for more than 4% of its total population. The diaspora has done commendably well in every sector in Canada. In the field of politics, in particular,  the present House of Commons (total strength of 338) has 22 Members of Parliament of Indian origin. 
    • Cultural Exchanges: 
      • Canada was the Country of Focus at the 48th International Film  Festival of India held in Goa in November 2017. 
      • There is also an India – Canada Coproduction Agreement in films
        • Diwali has been celebrated on Parliament Hill for the last 18  years.

    Challenges

    • Sikh extremism:
      • Sikhs constitute a significant proportion of the Indian diaspora, they make up less than one per cent (a little over 500,000) of Canada’s total population
      • The issue of Sikh separatist groups operating in Canada has become a growing source of tension between India and Canada.
      • While Sikh militancy has largely died down in India, concerns remain about the revival of the Khalistan movement.
        • Recently, a Hindu temple near Toronto was vandalised and defaced with anti-India graffiti.
      • Despite this, the Sikh diaspora commands a reasonable influence in Canada’s federal politics, specifically in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario.
      • Concerns that Canada is slow to act against anti-India elements on its soil have been a constant irritant in the relationship.
    • India’s structural impediments: 
      • India still has to overcome structural impediments such as complex labour laws, market protectionism, and bureaucratic regulations
    • Inadequate trade:
      • While India–Canada economic relations have made some progress, Canada remains an insignificant trading partner for India

    Way ahead

    • Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy, which says India’s strategic importance can only increase as its economy grows and it becomes the world’s most populous country, offers a wider staging ground for the two to come together based on the following components:
      • Seeking to expand trade ties, 
      • Invest in supply chain resilience 
      • Greater people-to-people exchanges, and
      • Shared suspicion of China
    • There could also be a defence and security component with Canada’s resolve to participate more in maritime security and exercises in the Indo-Pacific, and deeper counter-terrorism cooperation than exists now.

     

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] “Indo-Pacific strategy announced by Canada uses blunt language against China and sees closer engagement with India as critical to its success”. Examine.