Canada behind US, Britain in wooing India, says expert

September 3rd, 2008 - 11:58 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Sep 3 (IANS) Though Canada, the first nation to forge nuclear ties with India and later freeze its relationship after the 1974 Pokhran explosion, has again listed India as a priority nation for promoting closer ties, an expert on India-Canada relations feels Ottawa is not doing enough to woo this emerging economic power. They reckon Australia, France, Britain and the US have done a much better job of wooing India after their frosty relationship with New Delhi.

“I do not believe that Ottawa is doing enough to make India the priority it claims that it is,” Ryan Touhey, an expert on India-Canada relations, told IANS.

A professor at St. Jerome University near here, Touhey said Canada might have signed new trade, science and technology pacts with India, but its “public diplomacy spending in India is negligible”.

Stressing reciprocal visits by the prime ministers of the two countries, he said the current Conservative party government has done well to support India’s quest for nuclear energy.

Touhey said: “I think the Conservatives, to their credit, have injected some flexibility with the nuclear policy by instructing Canada’s representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to vote in favour of the US-India civil nuclear deal.

“It is the first time in over 34 years that Ottawa has shown a willingness and offered tangible proof that it is willing to reconsider its long-standing position and I do believe that the Indian government and policy and academic community should take note of that.”

Touhey said Canada should quickly identify a few core areas - education, science and technology, trade and international security - so as not to be left behind in engaging India.

Asked why the two countries, who were close allies after India’s independence, fell apart, he said: “Krishna Menon and even Nehru hoped that Canada might side less with the US/NATO bloc during the Cold War. Canadian policymakers also hoped that Indians would view the world through a similar lens because of their common colonial connection.”

However, the drift started in 1954 when the two countries, along with Poland, were asked to monitor the Indo-China ceasefire accord.

“But when Indians, as chair of the commission, appeared to be siding with Hanoi or overly critical of Saigon and Washington, it caught many in Ottawa off guard,” he said.

Over time, he said, more distrust developed in Ottawa where policymakers thought “Indians had their own agenda that ran contrary to that of the West”.

Finally, it was India’s nuclear explosion in 1974, Touhey said, which turned Canadian policymakers against India.

“India had given assurances that they were not developing a bomb and that Canadian technology would not go towards manufacturing a bomb. We know on both counts that the opposite occurred,” he said.

India’s nuclear programme, he added, led the then Trudeau government to believe that “India could not be partner for Canada in Asia - at a trade, political and security level. Instead, Ottawa began to pay increasing attention to Japan and China”.

Ottawa, he said, should lose no time to put its relationship with New Delhi back on track as India becomes a major global power.

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