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India-Canada relationship won’t be affected by Ontario motion, says envoy

The external affairs ministry has described the motion describing the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as “genocide” in the Ontario Assembly as “misguided” and “based on a limited understanding of India”.

india Updated: Jun 01, 2017 21:54 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Canadian high commissioner Nadir Patel,1984 anti-Sikh riots,Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Canadian high commissioner Nadir Patel said his country’s ties with India are resilient enough not to be affected by a motion motion passed by the Ontario Assembly describing the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as “genocide”.(Twitter)

The India-Canada relationship is resilient enough not to be affected by a motion passed by the Ontario Assembly describing the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as “genocide”, Canadian high commissioner Nadir Patel said on Thursday.

While appreciating concerns expressed by India about such developments in Canada, Patel said the private member’s motion in Ontario in April and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s presence at an event in Toronto in May that featured Khalistani flags should be seen in perspective.

“The Canada-India relationship is far more resilient to be sidetracked by a private member’s resolution that was voted for by 35 members in a provincial assembly,” Patel told Hindustan Times.

“We appreciate and respect India’s concerns and we don’t downplay them…If any information suggests wrong-doing, we will act on it,” he said, adding security cooperation was one of the key aspects of bilateral ties.

“Prime Minister Trudeau attending the Khalsa Day celebrations is just that. If somebody shows up with signs but no laws are being broken, there’s nothing we can do. The prime minister attending the event doesn’t mean the government is a supporter of breaking up India,” he said.

Bilateral ties have not been affected by controversies in recent years but the recent developments had angered New Delhi. The external affairs ministry described the motion in the Ontario Assembly as “misguided” and “based on a limited understanding of India”.

Trudeau’s presence at the Khalsa Day event featuring Khalistani flags and posters of extremist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had caused consternation in New Delhi and an Indian official described it as “surely a matter of concern”.

But Patel pointed out that the vast majority of the Indian-origin community in Canada was “peace-loving and had made significant contributions to bilateral relations”. He also pointed to the healthy state of bilateral exchanges, with eight Canadian cabinet ministers visiting India in nine months to take forward cooperation in areas ranging from trade and investment to education.

Bilateral trade, currently worth about $8 billion, increased by almost 30% in the past two years and Canadian investment in India has grown during the same period years, with an estimated $14 billion in new investments.

Patel noted that India is also the second largest source of international students in Canada. The number of Indians going to Canada for studies increased by an estimated 70% in 2016 and during the first five months of this year, the increase was almost 200% over the figures for the same period last year, he said.

According to official statistics, the number of Indian students in Canada has risen from just 4,899 in 2006 to 32,070 in 2015. Reports have suggested the spike in recent months was due to the unfavourable climate in the US that followed the election of President Donald Trump.

Patel attributed the increase to aggressive marketing, lower costs, the easy visa process and Canada’s “safe and welcoming” environment which “embraces diversity and multiculturalism”.

The envoy will next week lead a delegation of 150 Indian companies to mark the 150th anniversary of the confederation of Canada and explore new avenues for business. “We are supportive of India’s reforms. At the same time, the India story is not known in Canada,” he said.

Representatives of the companies will spend three days in Toronto for business meetings with Canadian firms. They will also visit potential partners, participate in networking events and join the Canada-India Business Symposium.

First Published: Jun 01, 2017 20:16 IST