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Canada–India relations

Canada–India relations, or Indo-Canadian relations, are the longstanding bilateral relations between Canada and the Republic of India, which are built upon a "mutual commitment to democracy", "pluralism", and "people-to-people links", according to the government of Canada.[1] In 2009, bilateral trade between India and Canada was at about C$4.14 billion.[2] Most notably, the bombing of Air India Flight 182 by Canadian residents, killing a vast quantity of Canadian citizens, had effects on relations for about 20 years. India's Smiling Buddha nuclear test added strains to the relationship between the two nations, with allegations that India broke the terms of the Colombo Plan.[3] Although Jean Chrétien and Roméo LeBlanc both visited India in the late 1990s, relations were again halted, albeit temporarily, after the Pokhran-II tests.[3] India and Canada are taking steps to become strategic partners,[4] with Prime Minister Stephen Harper making a state visit in 2012.[5] Both are former British colonies and full members of the Commonwealth of Nations, with Canada being home to one of the largest Indian diasporas in the world.

Indo-Canadian relations
Map indicating locations of India and Canada


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, during the 2016 NSS, April 2016.



Being fellow members of the Commonwealth of Nations, Canada and India exchange high commissioners rather than ambassadors. Canada's High Commission to India is located in New Delhi, whilst India maintains one in Ottawa. Canada maintains consulates in three Indian cities: Mumbai, Bangalore and Chandigarh; and trade offices in an additional four: Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chennai, and Hyderabad. India operates consulates in Vancouver and Toronto.


There may have been encounters between Indians and First Nations peoples in the sixteenth century along the Atlantic coast of present-day Canada. Evidence from further south in the United States suggests that South Asian slaves were among the first settlers at Jamestown, Virginia.[6] Lascars aboard Portuguese, Spanish and possibly French ships may have also arrived on the coasts of Labrador and Nova Scotia. The first definitive encounters between the First Nations and other aboriginal peoples of present-day Canada and South Asia, began in the eighteenth century, when British traders engaged in the fur trade arrived along the Pacific coast of Northwest America. These encounters involved the arrival of Lascars on ships from Bombay, Calcutta and Macau.[7]

A Simpsons store in Toronto pays tribute to India on Independence Day, 1947.

In the 1940s and 1960s Canada–India relations were enhanced because of the personal ties which developed between Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and two Canadian Prime Ministers who served during those years: Louis St. Laurent and Lester B. Pearson. At the United Nations and in the Commonwealth, on issues as diverse as the Korean War armistice and the Suez Crisis, there was a convergence of interest and commitment between India and Canada. Canada's aid programme to India began in 1951 and grew substantially under the Colombo Plan. Canada provided food aid, project financing and technical assistance to India. In the past five decades India has been one of the largest recipients of Canadian bilateral aid, amounting to over $3.8 billion Canadian dollars. In the 1960s, Canada supported the Kundah hydro-electric power house project through Colombo Plan.[8]

Indo-Canadian relations deteriorated in the wake of India's Smiling Buddha nuclear test of May 1974 when the Canadian government severed bilateral nuclear cooperation with both India and Pakistan in 1976 after claims that the fissionable material used to construct India's first nuclear device had been obtained from the Canadian-supplied CIRUS nuclear research reactor. Thereafter Canada resolved to engage in nuclear cooperation only with countries which signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and which instituted full-scope safeguards on their nuclear energy programmes under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). India and Pakistan are two nations that have both consistently refused to sign the NPT, and voted against UN General Assembly Resolutions which they claim violates their nation's sovereign right[9][10] to choose whether or not to sign such treaties. In early February 1997, Foreign Minister I.K.Gujral re-iterated India's opposition to the treaty, saying that "India favours any step aimed at destroying nuclear weapons, but considers that the treaty in its current form is not comprehensive and bans only certain types of tests". Thus, Canada's persistent refusal to engage in nuclear co-operation with India and Pakistan until and unless they sign the treaty ended its nuclear collaboration with India for the time being, and severely damaged relations between the two nations.

In the 1990s a chance to improve Indo-Canadian relations arose when India instituted major reforms of its economy. India went through a large economic liberalisation, which attracted the attention of the Canadian government and the business community. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien paid a diplomatic mission to India in January 1996 with two cabinet ministers and 300 business figures. India's External Affairs Minister Inder Kumar Gujral paid an official visit to Canada in September 1996. Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy reciprocated with a visit to India in January 1997 during which he inaugurated the Office of the Canadian High Commission in Chandigarh, capital of Punjab and Haryana states. The Canada-India Working Group on Counter- Terrorism was also established in 1997, bringing together on an annual basis several departments and agencies of the Canadian and Indian governments. Former Governor General Roméo LeBlanc undertook a state visit to India in March 1998. Prime Minister Stephen Harper took an official visit to India in November 2009. The Canada India Foundation has been active since 2007 in fostering support for stronger bi-lateral relations between Canada and India. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Canada in June 2010 for the G20 Summit in Toronto.

2011 was dubbed the "Year of India in Canada," a joint initiative by both governments. Under this auspice, in June 2011, the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce co-hosted with the government of India the regional Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, a conference of the diaspora. This conference hosted over 1,000 delegates from India and Canada's governmental, business, medical, scientific, and philanthropic sectors. This event was followed up by the International Indian Film Academy Awards held in Toronto in June 2011.

Two Prime Ministers of India have addressed a joint session of the Canadian Parliament: Indira Gandhi, on June 19, 1973 and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, on October 24, 1949.[11]

Air ConnectivityEdit

Air Canada operates non-stop flights from Toronto and Vancouver to Delhi, and from Toronto to Mumbai. India's Jet Airways operates daily flights from Delhi to Toronto through a scissors hub in Amsterdam, which also includes a flight from Mumbai.[12]


Following several acts of terrorism in the 20th Century, most prominent of which was the bombing of Air India Flight 182 in 1985, Canada and India maintain a bilateral dialogue on anti-terrorism, including an annual meeting of the Canada-India Strategic Dialogue, as well as regular meetings of the aforementioned Canada-India Working Group on Counter-Terrorism.[2]


Canada and India enjoy a prosperous trading relationship. Since 2004, despite the Late-2000s recession, trade has increased by over 70%. In 2009, Canadian exports to India totalled C$2.1 billion, while in the same year Canadian imports from India totalled C$2.0 billion, giving Canada a C$100 million trade surplus.[2] India celebrated the year 2012 as year of India in Canada to promote business, cultural and political relations with India.

Despite the warm relationship, trade between Canada and India is less than their potential. India accounts for less than 1% of Canada's total export and total import in 2014, with bilateral trade of C$5.77 billion in 2014 (compared to more than C$56 billion bilateral trade between China and Canada). Nevertheless, total trade between the two countries grows steadily over the past 5 year.[13]

Canada and India are currently holding negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to improve the trade relations between the two countries. As of March 2015, the two countries held their 9th round of negotiations in New Delhi.[14]

Canada’s Merchandise Trade with India 2015[15]

Canadian Imports from India Canadian Exports to India
Merchandise Classification % of total imports Merchandise Classification % of total exports
1 Boilers, mechanical appliances, etc. 8.43 Edible vegetables, roots and tubers 36.06
2 Mineral fuels, oils 6.91 Pearls, precious stones or metals 12.33
3 Pearls, precious stones or metals 6.75 Fertilizers 8.59
4 Organic chemicals 6.41 Ores, slag and ash 8.33
5 Woven clothing and apparel articles 5.66 Paper and paperboard 6.22
6 Pharmaceutical products 5.47 Mineral fuels, oils 4.28
7 Iron or steel articles 5.06 Boilers, mechanical appliances, etc. 4.28
8 Other textile articles, etc. 4.45 Aircraft and spacecraft 4.28
9 Knitted or crocheted apparel 4.16 Woodpulp; paper or paperboard scraps 4.17
10 Electrical machinery and equipment 3.64 Electrical machinery and equipment 1.68
% of Total from India 56.94 % of Total To India 90.23
Indian Imports as % of total Canadian imports 0.74 Indian Exports as % of total Canadian exports 0.88

See alsoEdit


Further readingEdit

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