By Joseph Mathieu
Photos by Chris Roussakis
Two high-ranking Indian officials addressed a full house of more than 100 people at Carleton’s Residence Commons conference room in mid-July at a celebration of the important international partnership between Canada and India organized by the university’s Canada-India Centre for Excellence (CICE).
The recently appointed Indian High Commissioner to Canada, Vikas Swarup, and Preeti Saran, India’s Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, both touched upon the growing trade between the two countries and a relationship built on shared values.
“I think anyone who is interested in the future of diversity should offer more robust support between our two countries,” said Swarup, to which Saran added: “If you are looking to the future, we should connect the youth of our two nations.”
“Carleton’s CICE provides a public forum, in the nation’s capital, to connect the two countries and keep the dialogue moving forward,” Canada-India Centre manager Harry Sharma said as he opened the late-afternoon reception.
Dr. Pradeep Merchant, Chair of the CICE’s governing council, highlighted the role that the Indo-Canadian community played in establishing the centre and urged leaders from both countries to support such initiatives. Merchant introduced High Commissioner Swarup, a career diplomat and author of the novel on which the 2008 Oscar Award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire was based.
Support for more Canada-India initiatives
On his first visit to the university, Swarup praised Carleton’s work in water management, smart cities, environmental technology and cybersecurity, and appealed for more centres such as the CICE that provide “news, information, and — most importantly — analysis.”
Swarup urged the CICE to continue connecting Canada to his country.
“Modern India, I think, is the country that is going to matter the most to the future of the world, because we represent one sixth of humanity,” said Swarup.
“The choices that we make are choices that will determine the future of the planet.”
Described as one of the most high ranking women in the Indian government, a former Ambassador and India’s former Consul General in Toronto, Saran delivered an enthusiastic account of the way she saw the partnership between Canada and India.
Saran said she wanted to see fewer barriers preventing Indians from investing in Canada, and vice versa. The reception took place just 10 days after the government of India introduced a goods and services tax to unify 40 jurisdictions of federal and state taxes, reducing the complexity of international trade.
An evolving partnership
Canada’s large Indian population can help strengthen the relationship between the two countries, added Saran, noting that “our values for freedom and for pluralism will continue to bind us together.”
By supporting research relevant to the two economies and connecting entrepreneurs on both sides of the Pacific, Saran said one of the centre’s goals is to increase the partnership to $15 or $20 million in trade every year. India, where the median age is 27, currently shares an $8 billion trade portfolio with Canada.
The seven-year-old Canada-India Centre, which brings together scholars and practitioners in different fields to contribute to policy initiatives that benefit both countries, co-hosted the evening with the High Commission of India.
During the question period, Swarup and Saran were asked about the status of the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), the pending trade agreement between the two countries.
“All negotiations are like Bollywood films,” Saran said to delighted laughter. “There are lots of songs and dances, but the endings are always very happy.”