The India BlogThe India Blog is about the socio-political-economic landscape of the country, its cultural moorings and the challenges it faces – whatever affects the lives and future of the people living within its boundaries and beyond.
A year-and-half ago when I came to India as Canada's High Commissioner, I knew I was going to a country which shares many of Canada's values such as democracy, rule of law, and a commitment to inclusive development.
After spending 19 months in this country and meeting hundreds of people, I see India as a land on the threshold of thousands of mini-social and economic revolutions - from education to entrepreneurship; from infrastructure to innovation, from research to reforms. Its billion plus people are waiting to tap the opportunities presented by its rapidly expanding economic growth and its increasing geo-political importance.
There are immense opportunities for countries like my own to partner with this young and dynamic country. Canada and India share a solid and broad trade relationship. From agriculture to infrastructure, from information and communications technologies to clean energy, from sustainable water supplies to the automotive industry; there are many sectors where both countries continue to collaborate to their mutual advantage.
I see great potential for collaboration in sectors that are of strategic importance to India and in which Canada has a comparative knowledge advantage, such as education, energy security, and agriculture and food security.
As many of you know, India faces a daunting task of educating its young people and creating the skilled workforce it will need for its economy to continue to grow at an impressive rate. Canadian universities and colleges are among the best in the world and are keen to work with Indian partners to help India meet these challenges.
More and more, Indian institutions are partnering with their Canadian counterparts to share technical expertise and collaborate on joint research projects and programmes, curriculum development, vocational training, student and faculty exchanges, internships and academic conferences.
We have also seen an impressive growth in the number of Indian students choosing Canada for their studies. In 2011, just over 12,000 study visas were issued to Indian students, a four-fold increase over 2008. We expect this number to continue to rise as Canadian institutions become better known in India for offering a high standard of education at a reasonable cost, in a safe, multicultural environment. Those interested in learning more about the Canadian universities and colleges can visit the Imagine Canada website at http://www.educationau-incanada.ca/.
In the field of energy, Canada is already supplying India with a modest but growing supply of petroleum. There is also great potential for Canada to become an important supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to India. Both Canada and India have significant shale gas reserves and India can make the most of Canadian expertise to tap into these.
More and more, both India and Canada are looking to alternative sources of energy to meet their growing energy demands. India can take advantage of Canada's significant expertise in hydro, solar, bio mass and wind energy as it seeks to address its energy needs. In fact, India has been using Canadian hydroelectric expertise for decades. SNC Lavalin, one of Canada's most iconic infrastructure firms, has been building large scale hydroelectric plants in India for 60 years. Canada also has great expertise in small scale, and "run-of-the-river" hydroelectric plants.
India and Canada signed a nuclear cooperation agreement (NCA) in 2010. Once the NCA enters into force, Canada will be in a position to supply India with nuclear-related equipment, technology and fuel for civilian use. There will also be the opportunity for Canada and India to explore potential nuclear sales and technology collaborations in third markets.
As India is increasingly using smart grid technology to enhance the efficiency of distribution and use of electricity, it can make use of Canada's well-known expertise in this sector.
Yet another area with great potential for collaboration is infrastructure, where India faces a huge deficit. Opportunities for partnership lie in: road and bridge construction; railway, port and airport modernisation and construction; project and construction management; and financing.
We are particularly excited by the opportunities that the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) will bring.
Canada is already collaborating with India in the transportation sector. Bombardier Transportation, a Canadian company that uses cutting-edge environment-friendly technology, has been supplying metro cars to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation since 2007. So far, it has received orders to supply 424 metro rail cars.
The advanced propulsion system and regenerative braking used by Bombardier, which can generate up to 30 per cent in energy savings, has contributed to Delhi Metro earning more than 20 million Indian rupees under a United Nations-backed initiative to combat climate change.
When it comes to air transportation, Canada is also collaborating with India. Last year, SpiceJet bought 15 Q400 Next Gen turboprop aeroplanes manufactured by Bombardier Aerospace.
Agriculture is another good example of how we can move to a partnership in the knowledge-based economy, as India works to feed its growing population.
Currently, Canada's most important export to India is pulses which you turn into delicious dal. Canada is the largest supplier of pulses to India with a market share of 34 per cent in 2010. Canada is also an important supplier of potash, which is used to make fertiliser.
While these agricultural exports are growing, work has already begun on projects that make use of innovations and scientific expertise developed in Canada to increase productivity in the field and with dairy herds and piggery farms. There is also great potential for partnerships in food processing, storage and distribution chains.
The ICT sector too provides tremendous opportunities for knowledge-based collaboration. From developing the BlackBerry and 3D animation tools, to integration of wireless technologies into microelectronics, health IT and digital media, Canada is a global industry leader.
Canada is the source of 80 per cent of the animation and special effects software used in Hollywood, and nearly every recent film nominated for a special effects Oscar has used Canadian-developed technology.
India can make use of Canadian technology to support growth, government-promoted initiatives such as broadband for all, e-governance, e-learning and e-health. Canada has successfully used modern technology to reach out to populations in remote areas despite large distances and difficult terrain. India faces similar challenges and can partner with Canada to leverage its expertise - in wireless Internet and mobile applications - to bring education and better health care to remote areas.
In order to turn all these opportunities into concrete results, both countries are building a comprehensive framework of agreements. Treaties on nuclear cooperation, S&T, education, earth sciences and agriculture were concluded recently.
Canada and India are working on additional agreements such as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), Audio-Visual Co-production Agreement and the Social Security Agreement.
Of these, the CEPA has the greatest potential to strengthen the relationship across a broad range of commercial sectors and help us to raise bilateral trade to $15 billion by 2015, as both our prime ministers committed to do in 2009.
A joint study estimates that, once in place, a CEPA could increase bilateral trade by up to 50 per cent and boost the gross domestic product of both India and Canada by at least $6 billion.
One of the most important links in Canada-India relations is the more than one million Canadians who can trace their origins to India. These Canadians have been tremendously successful in all walks of life and make significant contributions to Canada's dynamic multicultural society. The connections that they have maintained with India can play a key role in strengthening relations between both our countries. In fact, Canadians of Indian origin are among Canada's best ambassadors in India.
By engaging with India and introducing fellow Canadians to the opportunities that India has to offer, Indo-Canadians can play a key role in taking the relationship between our two countries to the next level.
I believe that the potential for collaboration between Canada and India is tremendous. Through partnerships we can leverage our capacity, knowledge and expertise to take advantage of opportunities not only at home but around the world, and build an even brighter future together.
More about Stewart Beck
Stewart Beck is Canada's High Commissioner to India.
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