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Canada’s defence minister Harjit Sajjan to visit India this month

With Sajjan’s trip, all the Indian-origin cabinet members in the Canadian government would have visited India since their appointment as ministers.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2017 15:01 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
With Sajjan’s  trip, all the four Indian-origin members of the Canadian cabinet would have visited India since their appointment as ministers.
With Sajjan’s trip, all the four Indian-origin members of the Canadian cabinet would have visited India since their appointment as ministers. (REUTERS)

Canada’s defence minister Harjit Sajjan, the highest-profile Indo-Canadian in the Justin Trudeau government, is expected to travel to New Delhi this month.

With Sajjan’s trip, all the four Indian-origin members of the Canadian cabinet would have visited India since their appointment as ministers. The last one to come calling was small business and tourism minister Bardish Chagger, who completed her official visit to India last week.

Sajjan’s visit and schedule have yet to be formally announced, but if it does occur, he will also be the fifth Canadian Minister to be in India just this year, and the eighth within the span of only nine months, upping the intensity of the bilateral dialogue process.

Canadian ministers who visited India in 2017
  • Minister of infrastructure and communities, Amarjeet Sohi, led a business delegation to the Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2017
  • Minister of international trade, François-Philippe Champagne, travelled to New Delhi
  • Minister of agriculture and agri-food Lawrence MacAulay led a delegation of over 20 Canadian companies and associations active in the agriculture, agri-food and seafood sectors.
  • Bardish Chagger, Canada’s minister of small business and tourism and leader of the Government in the House of Commons, travelled to New Delhi and Mumbai.

India’s defence ties with Canada are at a nascent stage, but it could benefit from the North American nation’s technological skills, cold climate expertise, and even explore the possibility of Canadian defence manufacturers becoming part of the Make in India initiative.

While he would not comment on or confirm any forthcoming visits, India’s High Commissioner in Ottawa, Vikas Swarup, was delighted with this rising engagement.

“We’ve had a lot of activity between the two countries and this augurs well really for the future of the India-Canada partnership. It shows the tremendous interest on the part of Canada in deepening the ties with India and making it as broadbased as possible.”

Those who are engaged in the partnership welcome the attention Canada is paying to India.

Kasi Rao, president and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council or C-IBC, said, “The number of ministers and the diversity of portfolios represents the need for a broad country-to-country relationship. And the rise of India, in that sense, is deeply relevant to Canada. All of this speaks to the widening scope of the relationship.”

In an earlier statement announcing Chagger’s visit, the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi noted that it was “the seventh in the last eight months by a Cabinet Minister of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Government, a reflection of the importance of Canada’s relationship with India”.

Rao also stressed that this phenomenon wasn’t about government leaders alone, as he said “the combined attention of leaders from various sectors, business, government and academia, speaks to both the potential and how we can realise it in the coming years.”

Canada may also seek to diversify its relationships, given the uncertainty surrounding the policies of the Trump Administration in Washington. Rao asserted, “The United States will always be our primary market and we should be very clear about that,” but he added that “in a world which is sort of more inward looking, the Canada-India relationship is ready for some important breakthroughs.”

Meanwhile, as the visits multiply, there could be reciprocal visits to Canada by Indian ministers to add to those by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last autumn.

“We do expect a packed schedule this summer as well,” Swarup said.

Of course, the single-most anticipated item on the calendar will be Trudeau’s visit to India, which is likely in the second half of this year.