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Canada needs to tap Indian potential: Envoy

india Updated: Jul 15, 2006 13:57 IST

Canadian businesses lack a spirit of entrepreneurial adventure, believes Indian High Commissioner in Vancouver Shyamala B Cowsik.

Her message to the Canadian business community is simple and blunt: You're missing out on opportunities that others have already grabbed or are exploring. 

Canadian investment in India is not up to the mark and Cowsik notes that more than Canada, India -- a capital-poor country -- is investing in the capital-rich country.

In an extensive interview with Rattan Mall, Cowsik gives a lowdown on how India and Canada can take advantage of each other's expertise and resources. 

The envoy notes: "Indian high-tech capabilities should be used by Canadian companies to increase their own global competitive edge. That is what all other Western companies doing…

Canadian companies should go and look for partners in areas that are of interest to Canada – environmental technologies, financial services, information technology and telecommunications, agri-processing, even animation.” 

Today, everyone is manufacturing in India – Ford, General Motors, BMW, Mercedes, all the Japanese auto companies, Hyundai, you name it.

AT Kearney, an FDI analyst, places India (1.95 out of 3) in the number two slot for 2005-06 for the first time, behind China (2.19) but ahead of the US (1.42).

India today is the fourth largest economy in the world in purchasing power parity terms, after the US, China, and Japan.  

As regards the Indo-Canada relationship, Cowsik says, it is ready for takeoff.

She points out that until recently there was a large information gap between what Canadians could do with India and what Indians could do with Canada.

“This is because Canada was fixated on the American market while Indians looked at Canada as a mere northern extension of the US,” she clarifies

Further bolstering her opinions, Cowsik says, in the last 15-16 months, “we've had more visits at the ministerial and senior official levels and also the private sector between the two countries than in the last 10 years. There were two foreign trade visits from Canada in April and September 2005.

Apart from the Indo-Canadian relations that have been on a continuous upswing, Cowsik also spoke about the following areas:

Air Services

International carrier Air-India resumed services only in May 2005. In June 2005, India and Canada had civil aviation negotiations and agreed to quintuple the flights – 500 per cent – a maximum of 35 flights in each direction.

Now they have six Air-India flights a week. I am very keen that it comes to Vancouver also. But Air Canada has to agree. They wanted Amritsar and Air-India was not willing to concede that. Now they will have a review of it.
Science & Technology
As regards the Science and Technology agreement, the Canadian side initially wanted to have an MoU, unlike India, which was in favour of a legally committing document.

The Canadians said that they were having problems with their procedures, but this was overcome. And even though the government had fallen and was going in for a January election, the agreement was approved by the cabinet in November.

“Under this agreement we have created a corpus of $6.75 million on either side. The joint committee for deciding on the projects has been set up and anyone can approach it with a proposal.

The change in government has not affected it. This covers five areas: Nanotechnology, bio-technology, earth sciences, environmental sciences, and the next generation of information technology, that is infontainment, wireless and rural connectivity.”

Environmental Technology

Canadians are world leaders in environmental technology. The two nations have agreed to set up a Canada-India high-tech forum for cooperation in environment, which will not be a think-tank or a policy forum like Kyoto.

It will be a public sector-private sector partnership, so industry will have a direct say and it will be for the marketing and application of Canadian environmental technology in India.  
Oil & Gas

In February 2005 there was an Indian oil and gas road show in Alberta – that is, the Indian delegation came and offered blocks in India for prospecting by Canadian firms.

Niko Resources had earlier teamed up with the petroleum arm of the giant Reliance industries conglomerate of India (Niko was a 10 per cent stakeholder with Reliance in this joint venture).

Reliance then had no experience in deep sea drilling, whereas Niko had such a small capacity that no one on Wall Street was willing to lend them money. The first well they drilled, off the Krishna Godavari basin, turned out to be the biggest gas find of that year (2002).

After that, Niko's market capitalisation went up five times and consequently, the Canadian interest in India oil and gas blocks also went up.

As regards Indian technical manpower, we told Canada that their visa regimen is not at all conducive to this. A good Indian engineer today has eight offers from all around the world – so you have to fight for him/her.

It's not as simple as merely allowing them to come to Canada and expecting them to queue up – that is not going to happen. 

Also, last August, India had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Alberta Research Council to help India refine their estimates of oil and gas deposits in India.

The ultimate aim is to locate the enormous oil and gas deposits in India under the Deccan Trap's 600 metres of rock.