India-Canada Bonding that is in Danger of Snapping


    Syllabus: GS2/ India & Foreign Relations, International Organisations & Groupings

    In Context

    • The current state of Canada-India diplomatic relations has evoked a mountain of uncertainty for emigrants and prospective ones

    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.
      • Bilateral Mechanisms:
        • Both sides pursue bilateral relations through dialogue mechanisms such as Ministerial-level- Strategic, Trade and Energy dialogues; Foreign Office Consultations; and other sector-specific joint working groups (JWG)
    • Commercial relations:
      • The India-Canada Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) negotiations were formally re-launched in March 2022 and the two countries had been keen on completing the negotiations by 2023-end. 
      • Nine rounds of talks had already taken place till July 2023, and negotiations on topics like goods, trade remedies and rules of origin were underway.
      • India was also Canada’s ninth largest trading partner in 2022, with bilateral trade between them touching $8.16 billion in FY23. 
    • Investments:
      • India has been a key destination for Canadian investments from entities such as the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board and asset management firm Brookfield in sectors ranging from infrastructure to start-ups. 
      • According to Invest India, Canada is the 18th largest foreign investor in India with a cumulative investment of $3.3 billion between April 2000 and March 2023, representing 0.5 per cent of the total FDI inflows into India.
    • 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. 

    Recent tensions between India & Canada

    • Canada’s allegations of killing KTF Chief Nijjar:
      • Tensions between the two countries escalated after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that there were “credible allegations” of the Indian government being behind the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
        • Nijjar was the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) chief and a designated terrorist in India
    • Pause on FTA talks:
      • After the Nijjar killing, Canada cancelled a trade delegation visit to Delhi, put FTA talks on pause and the $55 billion investment in India from Canadian Pension Funds may also be affected. 
    • India’s response:
      • While India has strongly denied the allegation, a full-blown diplomatic war has flared up between the two nations.
      • India’s Ministry of External Affairs pointed out that not just Nijjar, many people wanted for Khalistani separatist violence in India received “safe haven” in Canada, despite a number of representations by India for their extradition. 
    • India’s cancellation of visa services:
      • India has also suspended visa services across Canada, and will not accept applications from Canadians at any other mission worldwide, 

    Case of Indian Migrants & immigrants in Canada

    • About:
      • India is a prime origin country of immigrants to Canada, who have settled there as naturalised citizens.
      • Most hold the Overseas Citizenship of India(OCI), a life-time Indian visa or semi-dual-citizenship
      • As well as permanent residents (PRs) who range from investors, industrialists and business people, the highly skilled “knowledge professionals” to low- and medium-skilled “service workers”. 
      • Apart from the settled Indian diaspora, there are “temporary visitors” who are international students, trainees, exchange scholars, tourists, and their families. 
    • Data of Canadian Government:
      • According to the Census of Canada 2021, the country is home to over 1.86 million people of Indian origin, i.e., about 5% of the country’s 36.99 million population, and 5.8% of the 32 million strong global Indian diaspora. 
      • According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data, 225,940 or over 40% of 549,260 total study permits to international students were issued to Indians in 2022. 
    • Significance:
      • Thus, most of these immigrants comprise a substantial share of India’s human capital abroad.
        • Some of them even costing India much in terms of large-scale brain drain.
      • Remittances to India are from mainly migrant workers in West Asia/the Gulf countries. PRs and diaspora members in developed countries such as Canada are the source of investments in both countries. 
      • Visitors from India comprised Canada’s fourth-largest international air travel market

    Challenge ahead

    • Affecting People to people ties:
      • India’s decision to suspend visas to Canadians could see reciprocal action by Canada that would affect hundreds of thousands awaiting their visas including students and professionals. 
    • Travel ban:
      • Previously, In 2022, Canada and India agreed to remove restrictions on the number of bilateral flights, which was previously limited to 35 per week. 
      • Now, there is practically a travel ban with visa issuance withheld and/or restricted on both sides.
    • Lowest Point between the countries:
      • Already, the cancellation of trade talks and visas means this is the lowest point in decades.
      • As in the past clashes between the two, political engagement was called off, and people-to-people ties had been allowed to continue.

    Need to protect & empowering immigrants & way ahead

    • Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration Agreement:
      • Canada and India are not only members of the Commonwealth but also signatories to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration agreement, which was adopted at an intergovernmental conference on migration in Marrakesh, Morocco in December 2018. 
      • Among the 23 objectives of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration aimed at making migration “safe, orderly and regular” worldwide, objective number 19 is noteworthy:
        • To “create conditions for migrants and diasporas to fully contribute to sustainable development in all countries”.
    • Uncertainty for Indian immigrants: 
      • The present diplomatic tensions between the two governments seem to be undermining objective 19 of this Global Compact.
      • It has cast a shroud over migrants and the diaspora in terms of uncertainty about their own status in Canada and India.
      • If the issue is not resolved soon, the strain in ties would irreparably erode the cherished values of trust, time and loyalty to the detriment of this Global Compact.
    • Need of an unwavering commitment:
      • The driver for reinstating the willingness in both governments would be an unwavering commitment by each side to regain the values of trust, time and loyalty of their migrants and diaspora, and above all their citizens.
    Daily Mains Question
    [Q] Discuss the challenges faced by migrants and the diaspora in terms of uncertainty about their own status in Canada and India. Suggest ways to protect & empower the immigrants.