Indo-Canadian ties

Interest in India is guided by economic opportunities that the emerging Asian giant offers, writes Gurmukh Singh.

india Updated: Oct 31, 2005 18:40 IST

Considering that Canada had imposed sanctions on India after the May 1998 nuclear blasts which symbolised its entry to the nuclear club, it is a measure of New Delhi's growing economic clout in the world arena that that nation sits pretty high on the antenna in Ottawa.

It is the power of the new emerging India.

Look how many top Canadian leaders and delegations have visited India this year alone. First, it was Prime Minister Paul Martin who went to New Delhi. Then came two visits by its minister for international trade who led big delegations to New Delhi and other Indian cities.

When multiple blasts rocked the Indian capital this Saturday and killed more than 60 people, the prime minister quickly condemned them, saying, "On behalf of all Canadians, I want to extend our nation's deepest sympathies to the victims of today's attacks in New Delhi and their families. This was a cowardly act of violence clearly aimed at innocent civilians and it is beyond deplorable. Canada strongly condemns this act, and indeed all such terrorist attacks, which have killed and injured countless men, women and children.

"The Canadian High Commission in India continues to work closely with Indian authorities to determine whether any Canadians were affected and to offer assistance. Canadian consular officials report that, at this time, there are no reports of any Canadian casualties. As additional details emerge, the Department of Foreign Affairs will report on any new information."

In fact, Paul Martin had rushed to the region in January after the deadly tsunami hit it, and Canada was among the countries to send disaster management team(s) to the region.

Sure, the growing interest in India is motivated by economic opportunities that this emerging Asian giant offers. The bilateral trade between them is already growing rapidly. More and more companies from Canada are setting up shop in India and vice versa. FDI is up both ways.

Besides this, the interest of the million-strong Indian diaspora in their native country has also increased in recent years. Which, in turn, does have an effect on the establishment in Ottawa because this ethnic group has a huge political clout now.

For the diaspora too, India's growing economic clout is proving to be a big seductive force. And don't forget that a vast number of Indians in this North American country are first-generation immigrants who have emotional attachment to their roots. India' s economic liberalisation -– which means less of the inspector raj -- has made them have a fresh look at India in terms of economic opportunities. Many are already making huge contributions to charities, and social and economic causes in India. Others have built up hospitals and educational institutions.

If this trend continues, the face of many areas in India will change very soon. In fact, one can already see the impact in Punjab from where most of the immigrants come.

Over the years, the cynicism in the diaspora about their native country has given way to pride. Of course, many still find the corrupt Indian system beyond redemption. But India's projections as an emerging super power by the western media has dispelled all cynicism.

In recent times when any natural or terrorist-made calamity struck India, the diaspora in this country went out of its way to help their brethren back home. When the tsunami hit India -– as well as other Asian nations -- last December, the immigrant community was way ahead of the mainstream community in contributing to the relief effort. So much so that many individual doctors went there to provide succour and treatment to the victims.

This correspondent remembers how the Indian immigrants jammed the phone lines of ethnic radio stations to make contributions. Millions of dollars was raised in no time. In British Columbia, a local Indo-Canadian MP Gurmant Grewal sat through the day-long show to raise the money.

The same story was repeated two weeks ago in the wake of the deadly earthquake that hit India and Pakistan. In Vancouver alone, ethnic Indian radio stations raised a million dollars from listeners.

Seems like every Canadian heart beats for India.

First Published: Oct 31, 2005 00:00 IST