[youtube id=”8OleRs-SeIY” parameters=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OleRs-SeIY”] One of the world’s largest populations of overseas Indians, 1.2 million strong Indian diaspora in Canada keep their adopted country humming with their energy, enterprise and ideas. In fact, India and Indians are omnipresent in this North American country. And they are with you right from the time you leave the airport and take a taxi driven by a Sikh chauffeur, visit bustling markets, or have an appointment with one of the business chambers. The Indian community is now moving up the ladder in parliament and the government. There are eight Indo-Canadian MPs in the House of Commons and one in the Senate. Two PIO MPs are Ministers of State in the Federal Government and one PIO MP is Parliamentary Secretary to the Foreign Minister.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to connect with this vibrant Indian community at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum on April 16. It promises to be a blockbuster spectacle as Mr Modi does an encore of his famous Madison Square address in New York in September last year.
In this wide-ranging conversation with Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network (www.iniawrites.org), Canada’s High commissioner to India Nadir Patel, the first Canadian envoy of Indian origin posted in New Delhi, outlines multifarious role of the Indian diaspora in Canada and predicts that Modi can expect a rock star welcome in Canada. The envoy also raises the bar for the dynamic India-Canada relations and speaks about the future trajectory of this win-win relationship.
(Edited Excerpts from the interview)
Q) The success of the Indo-Canadian community is quite spectacular. They are not only prominent in business, academia and culture in Canada, but are also moving into parliament and the government. You yourself are an exemplar success story – the first Canadian high commissioner of Indian origin in India. Can you give a sense of what makes the Indian community in Canada so successful
A) I think there are over 1.2 million Canadians of Indian origin – that’s 3% of our population, it’s very high on per capita basis for diaspora of any country around the world; so that’s a very significant role to note, but more importantly that is the reflection of what Canada is all about. It’s a multi-cultural society; it’s a fabric of Canada and whether it’s the Indo Canadian community or other communities, they are very significant contributors not only to the Canadian society, but also to Canada’s relations with those countries. I look at the diaspora as the ambassador of Canada-India relations, just like I am because there’s an affinity to the relationship, it could be related to the business, it could be related to education, it could be people-to-people or tourism — all of these individual are contributing something to that relationship. Which is why I think it is great that Prime Minister Modi is in fact reaching out to the diaspora community because again they can play a role and help to further advance the relationship. The community will be welcoming Prime Minister Modi in large number, so we welcome him no doubt like a rock star in Toronto. Most of us are looking forward to a very lively energetic event that will see the strength of that diaspora community speak loudly and with a very warm welcome
Q) Canada is an agricultural giant. You just briefly hinted about investments in agriculture. Can you amplify on the prospects of collaboration between India and Canada in the sphere of agriculture?
A) I think we have a lot in terms of agro- food products, but also technical capacities, science and technology around farming processes, agricultural processes and also fertilisers, potash — so the full ecosystems, food, agro food and food security, we have a lot we can offer. We are already exporting from Canada significant amount of potash into the market here, about 35% of lentils and peas imported into India actually come from Canada, and we want to see more of that. And we also like to see that diversify a little more and we are still looking at products like sea food. When you talk about cold storage systems, food processing systems, again science technology wise we have a lot of capacity where we can work with Indian farmers to booster their efforts here as well. In fertilisers and potash. So these are various areas which I think feature very prominently (in India-Canada cooperation) now, and well into the future as well
Q) What about mining
A) Mining is an area again – potash is a good example, Canada’s mining sector is looking for opportunities to export goods here. We are also looking at coking coal for the manufacturing of steel, manufactured or mined by some of Canada’s companies. Some Indian companies are active in Canada in the mining sector as well. Again the breadth is fairly broad and I think it’s in our interest to focus far as we can and increase our activity in these areas
Q) If I ask you to sum up the future of Indo- Canada relations and some of the key areas where one can expect a marked upswing in the future?
A) First of all, this visit will be an opportunity to really build and boost some strong momentum in taking the relationship to even newer heights and greater heights, and I thinks that will show loud and clear when this visit is on and when it’s over as well. Going forward, we will continue full steam ahead for trade and investment and try to bolster those numbers and expand cooperation in this area because this will create jobs in India and this will create jobs in Canada. It’s very very important. At the same, however, we will see ourselves ramping up areas of the relationship that we haven’t been focusing on recently as much as we have in the past as much as we would like to in our future and that will include engaging with all the states around India a little more directly, looking at opportunities in cities outside of the primary cities where we have offices to see what opportunities are for companies or individuals to pursue. We will also focus a lot more on education, educational and academic linkages, people-to-people ties, cultural ties, including film and sport. The idea is to make the relationship as well rounded and broad-based as possible, and we really want to go with this.
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