Cultivating Collaboration

3 minute read

On a cold November day, four cabinet ministers lined up behind a podium overlooking the Port of Vancouver. In a time when members of cabinet are constantly looking for ways to gain a solitary second of the spotlight within the news cycle, the size of the ministerial delegation indicated the significance of the announcement. The ministers of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, International Development and Public Safety had gathered to announce the government’s long awaited Indo-Pacific Strategy, which lays out the five interconnected strategic objectives which will guide Canadian foreign policy in the region for a decade or more. 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs made her first foreign trip dedicated to the Indo-Pacific Strategy in early February, travelling to Delhi, India, for two days of meetings with Indian government officials, and local organizations. In addition to being Minister Joly’s first stop, only India and China were provided with a dedicated section of the strategy.

While the relationship between Canada and China has been regularly in the headlines, the importance of our posture with India gets decidedly less attention. But that does not mean it is not a focus for the Trudeau government.

Broadly speaking, there are two imperatives driving Canada’s desire for a more robust relationship with India, including economic Interests and strategic Interests. 

Economic Interests

Simply put, India can provide massive economic opportunities for Canada going forward. Propelled by a growing middle class, increased consumer spending, and rising investments in digitalization and infrastructure, India, currently the fifth-largest economy in the world, has the potential to become the third-largest economy by 2030

Over the next three years, India is projected to be the world’s fastest-growing large economy, with real GDP growth well above its peers in Asia, North America and Europe. Additionally, India is poised to become the world’s most populous country this year – surpassing China, which has held the distinction since at least 1950, when the United Nation’s population records began. India is also home to the largest working-age population in the world, with half its population under the age of 25, compared to only a quarter in Canada. In fact, there are so many Indians in this age group that roughly one-in-five people globally who are under the age of 25 live in India. 

India’s rapidly growing economy, coupled with its population increase, provide extremely favourable circumstances for Canada’s economy in both the short and long term. The growth in the Indian economy, as well as the expansion of the Indian middle class, will create an increased demand for Canadian material and retail goods. Furthermore, population increase, and a low average age mean that India can supply Canadian business in numerous sectors with a massive potential workforce going forward.

Strategic Interests

Given the increase in questionable policies and expansionist tendencies exhibited by China since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, as well as the economic importance of the Indo-Pacific region, major democratic powers have all made efforts to counter the influence of China and ensure stability in the region. Most nations identify India as a key player in this endeavour. 

Most importantly, India has consistently demonstrated dedication to the common rules-based order, freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce, and settlement of disputes in accordance with international law. India’s policy reflects its intention to cooperatively manage a rules-based multipolar regional order and prevent any single power from dominating the Indo-Pacific region. 

India can provide considerable assistance to Canada and its allies in creating and maintaining relationships with nations across the region. India figures prominently in the trade profile of countries in the region, with nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore consistently ranking in India’s top trading partners. Moreover, India’s footprint is expanding within the realm of defence in the region. India conducts periodic military exercises with both Vietnam and Singapore, while numerous Indo-Pacific countries are often invited as participants and observers to India’s annual naval exercise, MILAN. India is also working on Maritime Domain Awareness with small island states such as the Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius, and engaging with countries like Mongolia and Fiji under the rubric of its Act East policy. 

As Canada and its allies look to ensure peace, stability and security in the critically important region that is the Indo-Pacific, while also benefiting from its enormous economic potential, the creation of strong and reliable partnerships will be paramount. India will be key to achieving those goals, so here’s to a long and happy relationship between the two nations.

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