Published September 11, 2012 | 12:16 pm
Toronto: With much of the industrialized west mired in sluggish growth or flirting with a double-dip recession, Canadian interest in Asia has reached a fresh high.While China is hogging the headlines, India is also quietly wending its way through the back pages, making friends and influencing economies. India has changed dramatically in the last decade.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper also expressed his willingness to deepen economic ties between Canada and Asian nations like India and China before going on his trip to Russia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit.
A recent report released by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada warns that Canada risks losing both economic and regional political clout if it doesn’t get a lot more involved in Asian affairs.
So far, Canada is not doing so well when it comes to engaging Asian countries, which include some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The combination of overexposure to the U.S. market and underexposure to faster-growing emerging markets is almost entirely responsible for Canada’s further loss in world market share. The U.S. is tapped out as a growth market. But rapidly urbanizing Asia — China and India are housing the equivalent of the entire population of Canada every 18 months — offers much more opportunity.
Drastic changes in India and its claims for becoming a super power have not gone unnoticed and many delegations from various countries including from Canada and United States have flocked New Delhi, trying to build ties. Not only do they want access to markets, they want access to people. India annually produces hundreds of thousands of high-tech and science graduates who are well trained, hard-working and, crucially, speak English.
Canada also came knocking, and India has seen almost dozens of Canadian delegations, headed by Premiers of various states or Ministers from Canadian Parliament as India takes a more prominent role in the global economy. Foreign Affairs of Canada, John Baird, is also on his first official visit to India from Sept 9-13.
During his visit, Baird will hold discussions with External Affairs Minister SM Krishna on the entire gamut of bilateral relations and discuss ways of enhancing and intensifying the relationship, especially in areas of mutual interest and complementary synergies such as energy, minerals, agriculture and food security, infrastructure, advanced technology, higher education and people-to-people ties.
Canada is emerging as an important destination for Indian investments, especially in energy, minerals and the IT sector.
The purpose of these missions is to strengthen Canada-India trade and investment ties, meet with Indian government ministers to advance key policy interests, meet with Indian business leaders to showcase Canadian know-how and capabilities, attract Indian investment to Canada, and advance the commercial interests of Canadian businesses seeking new opportunities in this priority market.
The South Asian diaspora in Canada has grown to about a million people since the first wave of immigration from India in the late 1960s. Although many of the first South Asian immigrants were factory workers, recent newcomers are more likely to include members of India’s growing business class, and the children of early immigrants have established themselves and become more prosperous.
Canadians have understood that India’s exponentially increasing demand makes this Canada-India relationship absolutely crucial for growing Canada’s workforce and economy in the years to come.Despite the constraints of the recent financial crisis, over 50 per cent Canadian companies saw no impact in their Asian operations during the crisis.
India’s seemingly successful policy of making new friends is leading to some dramatic shifts in the balance of power in Asia. India is changing, fast and Canada has the potential to hitch along for the ride. Canada just have to be willing to accept New India on its own terms because New India is looking for equal partners.