India- Canada relations

February 16, 2018


Being the fellow members of the Commonwealth, India and Canada share a relationship based on:

  • "mutual commitment to democracy"

  • "pluralism"

  • "people-to-people links"

These have expanded significantly in recent years aided by heightened economic engagement, regular high level interactions and long-standing people-to-people ties.


  • 1940s-60s:

    • Enhanced relationship because of the personal ties which developed between Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and two Canadian Prime Ministers: Louis St. Laurent and Lester B. Pearson.

    • At the platforms of the United Nations and the Commonwealth, on issues such as Korean war armistice and the Suez Canal crisis, there was convergence of interest.

  • 1951:  Canadian aid programme to India began.

    • Columbo Plan: Originally it was a group of 7 Commonwealth nations: Australia, Britain, Canada, Ceylon, India, New Zealnd and Pakistan

      • 1960s: Canada supported the Kundah hydro-electric power house project through Columbo Plan.

      • In 1977, it expanded its membership and changed name to "The Columbo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific".

  • 1974: Smiling Buddha nuclear test:

    • Deterioration of relations when Canadian government severed bilateral nuclear cooperation with both India and Pakistan in 1976 after claims that India's first nuclear device had been obtained from the Canadian-supplied CIRUS nuclear research reactor.

  • Issues since 1970s-80s:

    • NPT, CTBT, IAEA: Non-Proliferation of Nulcear Weapons and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, International Atomic Energy Agency: Canada resolved to engage in cooperation only with those countries which signed the two treaties and which have instituted full-scope programmes under the supervision of IAEA.

  • 1990s: India introduved various economic reforms, which attracted Canadian business community.

    • 1996, 2003: Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien paid a diplomatic visit to India.

    • India's External Affairs Minister Inder Kumar Gujral paid an official visit to Canada in September 1996

    • Canadian 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.

    • 1997: Canada-India Working Group on Counter-Terrorism was established.

  • 1990s: Cooperation in Science & Technology and Space:

    • India and Canada have been cooperating since 1990s in the areas of space science, earth observation, satellite launch services and ground support for space missions.ISRO and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) have signed MOUs for cooperation in the field of exploration and utilization of outer space and two Implementation Arrangements specifically addressing satellite tracking and space astronomy.

    • Although Jean Chrétienand Roméo LeBlanc both visited India in the late 1990s, relations were again halted, albeit temporarily, after the Pokhran-II tests

  • 2010: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid a diplomatic visit to Canada.

  • 2011: was "Year of India in Canada", a joint initiative by both governments.

  • 2015: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bilateral visit to Canada on April 14-16, 2015 was historic.

    • He visited Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

    • He held extensive discussions with Canada’s political, business and academic leaders and also addressed some 10,000 PIO’s & friends of India, at Toronto on 15th April.

  • 2016: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau offered a former apology for the Komagata Maru incident of 1914.


  • The two-way trade has increased from C$ 4.2 billion (US$ 3.21 bn approx.) in 2010 to C$8.02 billion(US $6.05 bn approximately) in 2016, but does not reflect the true potential.

  • India accounts for only 1.95% of Canada’s global trade.

  • Major items of India exports to Canada include gems, jewellary and precious stones, pharmaceutical products, readymade garments, textiles, organic chemicals, light engineering goods, iron & steel articles, etc.

  • India’s import from Canada include pulses, newsprint, wood pulp, asbestos, potash, iron scrap, copper, minerals and industrial chemicals, etc.


Canada India FTA – Challenges


The FTA that intends to take forward is temporarily halted due to disagreements. These include

  1. BIPA – Bilateral Foreign investment promotion and protection agreement –Canada want India to ensure the rights of their investors first before moving forward for FTA.

  2. Investor-state dispute settlement mechanism – In case of a dispute, India wants investors to exhaust all remedies domestically available before approaching international tribunals. Canada is skeptical in the light of judicial delays in India.

  3. Retrogressive Tax laws – In case of a change in Taxation policy, Canada wants India to protect the investments from these changes.

  4. MFN forward and ratchet – According to this, any benefit offered to any other country through FTA shall automatically apply to Canada and similarly any liberalization of policy shall be extended to Canada and vice versa. India believes that it will decrease its policy space.


  • Over 100,000 Indian students study in Canada. Education is a key area of collaboration between the two countries.

  • The MOU on Cooperation in Higher Education was signed in June 2010, which covers student and faculty exchange, research and curriculum development, organization of workshop and seminars, twining between institutions of higher learning, facilitate mutual recognition of educational qualifications, policy dialogue in areas of mutual interest, among others.

  • IC-IMPACTS (the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability), which is a Canada-India Research Centre of Excellence dedicated to the development of research collaborations between Canada and India, seeks to bring together researchers, industry innovators, community leaders, government agencies, and community organizations from across India and Canada to work together to find solutions to the key challenges facing the communities.

  • IC-IMPACTS is working with the National Mission for Clean Ganga to find innovative technological solutions to clean the river Ganga; the 'Water for Health' collaboration with Department of Biotechnology and with DST on 'Safe and Sustainable Infrastructure' and 'Integrated Water-Management' initiatives.


Way forward:

  • There is enough potential for stepping up cooperation in areas like Information Technology, science, clean and green tech, aviation and outer space, cold-climate warfare, cybersecurity, counter terrorism and tourism.

  • The need of the hour is to strengthen mutual trust and confidence, by taking benefits of the historical connect and visualising a long-term insight for the nations.


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