Canada for ramping up military ties with India: Defence Minister

February 19th, 2008 - 12:50 pm ICT by admin  

By Vishnu Makhijani
New Delhi, Feb 19 (IANS) Canada is seeking to ramp up military ties with India, saying this would be beneficial for both countries. “We look to expand our level of cooperation. By that I mean the exchange of military personnel. We hope to have more slots available for training both in Canada and here,” visiting Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay said.

“We’ve had a greater presence of the Canadian Navy here in doing cooperative operations (like the Malabar series of war games). To that extent, we see a lot of mutual benefits in working closely with India at the defence level,” MacKay told IANS in an interview.

He is in India at the head of a large business delegation to conduct seminars and workshops here and in Mumbai to promote Canada’s east coast ports as the Atlantic Gateway to North America.

“Ports on Canada’s east coast are 36 hours closer from the Suez Canal than New York. What this means is that goods that are offloaded at an Atlantic Gateway port will have reached the US Midwest before your competitor’s ship would have docked at New York,” explained MacKay, who is also the minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

During his stay here, MacKay has also met his Indian counterpart A.K. Antony and National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan.

“Our talks were very cordial. We discussed how we could raise our defence ties to our mutual benefit,” the minister said.

The Canadian Navy participated for the first time in the annual Malabar joint drill in 2006 along with the Indian Navy, the Indian Army, and the US Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.

The Canadian Navy participated as part of the USS Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG). The exercise focused on strengthening ties between the three forces, increasing interoperability, and enhancing their cooperative security relationship, as they worked together to fight terrorism, respond to natural disasters, and combat nuclear proliferation.

India and Canada have also established a Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism (JWGCT) in New Delhi that meets annually.

“I think we can learn a great deal from India, from your long experience in dealing with terrorism,” MacKay noted.

Set up in 1997, the group “has evolved its agenda over the years to strengthen the India-Canada partnership on counter-terrorism”, a Canadian High Commission official explained.

“It seeks to increase the complementarity of the ongoing efforts in both countries to deal with various aspects of terrorism by strengthening capacity and policy frameworks against the menace of terrorism,” he added.

Significantly, the meetings of the group continued uninterrupted despite the frostiness in India-Canada ties after New Delhi tested a nuclear device in May 1998.

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