India and Canada have signed six pacts and decided to fast-track negotiations for two defining agreements to expand their economic relationship. It was a clear signal that although Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s indulgence of Sikh separatists will remain a thorny issue, but for now the two sides have not allowed it to hijack their relationship.
On the last leg of his week-long tour that has been hotly debated, Mr Trudeau met his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi on February 23 and discussed a wide range of bilateral and global issues. After the talks, the two sides signed six agreements in the fields of energy, sports, higher education, intellectual property rights and cooperation in science, technology, innovation and electronics.
The nearly two-hour meeting between the two leaders included discussions on expanding trade and business partnership, with a promise of intensifying negotiations to finalize Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and the Bilateral Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement that are hanging in the balance for seven years now. The constraint on the export of pulses has been another major issue after India had imposed a 50 per cent tariff on chickpea imports from Canada last year. Both sides agreed to expedite the conclusion of an arrangement within 2018 enabling the export of Canadian pulses to India free from pests of quarantine importance, with mutually acceptable technological protocols.
On the energy front both the leaders agreed to initiate an energy dialogue with the announcement of the fourth meeting of the Ministerial Energy Dialogue to be held in Canada this year. Both sides expressed their commitment to make a transition to renewable energy with a special focus on solar power under the International Solar Alliance. India will continue to import uranium from Canada for peaceful use of civil nuclear power and will be engaged in enhancing collaboration in nuclear science and technology with Canada.
Given the fact that Canada is a popular destination for a large number of Indian students pursuing higher education, an MoU on higher education was inked by the two sides. Around 124,000 Indians study in Canada. A MoU on sports was also adopted in an effort to promote greater exchanges beyond academia.
Reviewing the security situation
Extensive talks were held regarding the prevailing security situation in Afghanistan, the Korean Peninsula, the rehabilitation of the Rohingyas in the Rakhine state in Myanmar and the recent crisis in Maldives. Both the leaders also expressed commitment to the UNCLOS and the need to respect freedom of navigation and over-flight throughout the Indo-Pacific. India and Canada agreed to extend their bilateral defence cooperation in areas like cold climate training, enhancing naval interactions, and staff exchanges.
Modi’s message to Canada
During the media interaction, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that any challenge to India’s sovereignty, unity and integrity could not be tolerated under any circumstances, therefore sending out a strong signal to the Trudeau administration not to continue pandering to pro-Khalistani separatists. An invitation by the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi to Jaspal Atwal, a Canada-based former member of a banned Sikh separatist group, had to be withdrawn after the authorities discovered that Atwal had been convicted of trying to kill an Indian Cabinet minister during a 1986 visit to Canada. He was, however, present at the Mumbai reception of Mr Trudeau. Mr Trudeau, however, insisted that he supports a united India.
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