On 27th November 2022, Canada finally released its Indo-Pacific Strategy, asserting its interests and challenges concerning the region. For Canada, this strategy is the final document as to how the state will engage with the region and surrounding countries in the future. Being the world’s fastest-growing region, Indo-Pacific is a crucial region for major players in the international arena. It comprises over 40 countries and economies, with one-third of the global economic activities accounting for USD 47.19 trillion. The region, thus, provides immense opportunities for the countries to cooperate in areas like education, health services, food, energy, natural resources and critical minerals, manufacturing units and green infrastructure. The article focuses on the emerging significance of the Indo-Pacific region, highlighting the implications of Canada’s latest strategy and cooperation with India in the region.
In light of Canadian President Trudeau’s comment over farmers’ protests in 2020 in India, which was shocking for New Delhi, and a spurt of Khalistani separatist movements in Canada had put the ties between the two in a distrust, if not complete hostility. Ottawa’s new strategy brings it closer to constructive engagements with India. Committing Canada to deeper and substantive cooperation in the region, Ottawa’s Indo-Pacific strategy outlines five key objectives: promoting peace, resilience and security; expanding trade, investments and supply chain resilience; investing in and connecting people; building a sustainable and green future; and being an active and engaged partner in the region. The strategy aligns with Canada’s key allies, including the UK, US, EU, Australia, Japan, South Korea and India.
The Canadian Strategy has identified 4 major regions to focus on- China, India, North Pacific (Japan and Koreas) and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). It clearly outlines the emerging China challenge in the region. Concerning Beijing’s increased strategic investments in the region, coercive approaches, arbitrary application of laws, enhanced military capabilities, and attempts to realign international order to its advantage, Canada called for increased regional cooperation to deal with the Asian threat. Like other major players, Canada will also cooperate with China when required and resist when necessary. Furthermore, Canada recognises India as a “crucial partner” and has specified various areas of cooperation on which the two countries can come closer, including China.
Before announcing the strategy, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly commented that “India’s leadership and influence will only continue to grow, both in the region and globally. India also provides a crucial opportunity for Canadian businesses.” The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is the centrepiece of the reviving trade negotiations for India and Canada. According to Ciuriak Consulting Economic Model, an FTA with India can boost Canadian GDP by 0.16 per cent year by 2035. A successful CEPA deal would boost two-way India-Canada trade by C$ 8.8 billion a year, which is more than double what it was in the year 2019. Apart from this, India is also working on the Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) with Canada. Both states have also expressed their willingness to invest in building capacity to tackle mutual challenges in the region with greater cooperation by sharing technology and R&D. Climate change, energy security, safe and secure maritime trade, and cyber security are some other areas of common concern.
In terms of regional defence and security, Canada plans to increase its naval presence in the region, and expand capacity-building initiatives and interoperability with regional partners in the Indo-Pacific. Canada promises to deal with Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing, which is a major challenge in the region, through the Canadian ‘Dark Vessel Detection Program’, to protect fish stocks from illegal fishing vessels. The region is very vulnerable to climate change, especially the small island nations of the region. New Delhi and Ottawa understand the global need and support in order to deal with this global threat; both nations have committed to work with regional partners for a more sustainable and green future. Canada, in its strategy, has also mentioned its willingness to share expertise in technology, ocean management and clean energy transition with other countries, including India.
India welcomed the Indo-Pacific Strategy of Canada, highlighting the shared vision of a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific. In the recent India-Canada Strategic Dialogue held in New Delhi, both countries attempted to put their bilateral relations back on track, with the focus primarily on the potential of the Indo-Pacific region. The relations between the two are based on shared democratic values, security cooperation, people-to-people connections, and growing economic linkages. In conclusion, both nations have a huge opportunity to develop and enhance their strategic and economic ties with a few frictions to work upon.