Canada Postpones Trade Mission to India as anti-India tensions rise
Canada has decided to delay its scheduled trade mission to India originally planned for early October. This decision coincides with a standstill in broader trade discussions between the two nations and follows a somewhat contentious meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the recent Group of Twenty summit in New Delhi.
Modi's office publicly criticized Trudeau after the meeting, accusing him of tolerating "anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada." In response, Trudeau voiced concerns about foreign interference in Canadian politics.
In a statement released on Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng provided no specific reasons for canceling the trade mission and did not announce a rescheduled date. The trade mission was originally set to begin in Mumbai on October 9 and was focused on sectors such as automobiles, agriculture, and information technology.
"At this time, we are postponing the upcoming trade mission to India," stated Alice Hansen, Ng's spokesperson. "In the next year, we will be taking businesses to Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam."
Additionally, Canada and India had been engaged in formal discussions aimed at signing an early-stage trade agreement, but these talks were paused shortly before Trudeau's visit to India.
Ng explained to reporters this week that both sides are taking a break to "reflect" on the negotiations, partly to consult with a broader range of stakeholders. She characterized this pause as a normal aspect of such discussions.
India's Trade Minister Piyush Goyal mentioned in an interview with Indian media outlet Firstpost that the pause was necessary to ensure that the countries are aligned "geopolitically and economically." He cited "serious concerns" and indicated that Modi had raised these concerns with Trudeau at the G-20 summit. Goyal expressed hope for resolution before moving forward with the trade talks.
One of India's concerns pertains to Sikh Canadians advocating for an independent homeland called Khalistan. Trudeau has affirmed that Canada condemns violence or hatred but also defends freedom of expression and peaceful protest.
Canada's Indo-Pacific strategy, outlined in a document from the previous year, emphasized the need to diversify trade in the region away from China. The document highlighted India's strategic, economic, and demographic significance in the Indo-Pacific region and its importance as a key partner for Canada in pursuing its objectives.