Canada–India relations

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Indo-Canadian relations


Diplomatic mission
High Commission of India, OttawaHigh Commission of Canada, New Delhi
High Commissioner of India to Canada Sanjay Kumar Verma[1]High Commissioner of Canada to India Cameron MacKay[2]

Canada–India relations also referred to as Indo-Canadian relations, are the bilateral relations between Canada and India. According to the Canadian Government, these relations are built upon a "mutual commitment to democracy", "pluralism", and "people-to-people links."[3] In 2022, bilateral trade between India and Canada was at about C$15.14 billion.[4]


In 1858, Queen Victoria proclaimed that, throughout the Empire, the people of India would enjoy equal privileges with white people without discrimination of colour, creed or race. Since both Canada and India were under British Crown rule, ex-army men from the British Indian Army migrated to Canada to start a new life. However, what awaited them was racism and discrimination. Many settled in Western Canada, which was sparsely populated at the time, and worked as law enforcement officers due to their military history. They also worked in forest clearing as lumberjacks and owned lumber mills. However, race relations with white Canadians were strained. The socioeconomic systems that advantages white people ensured that racialization and minimal direct contact (e.g. racial gatekeeping) remained the same by setting up various barriers. This dynamic continues implicitly and explicitly into the 21st century internally within the country, and the external intercontinental cordiality is also fraught with similar relationship dynamics.[5][6]

Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru leaves the House of Commons of Canada after making a joint-address to the Canadian parliament, 1949

In the 1940s and 1960s Canada–India relations were enhanced because of the personal ties which developed between Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and two Canadian Prime Ministers who served during those years: Louis St. Laurent and Lester B. Pearson. At the United Nations and in the Commonwealth, on issues as diverse as the Korean War armistice and the Suez Crisis, there was a convergence of interest and commitment between India and Canada. Canada's aid programme to India began in 1951 and grew substantially under the Colombo Plan. Canada provided food aid, project financing and technical assistance to India. In the past five decades India has been one of the largest recipients of Canadian bilateral aid, amounting to over $3.8 billion Canadian dollars. In the 1960s, Canada supported the Kundah hydro-electric power house project through the Colombo Plan.[7]

Indo-Canadian relations deteriorated in the wake of India's Smiling Buddha nuclear test of May 1974 when the Canadian government severed bilateral nuclear cooperation with both India and Pakistan in 1976 after claims that the fissionable material used to construct India's first nuclear weapon had been synthesized with the Canadian-supplied CIRUS nuclear research reactor. Thereafter Canada resolved to engage in nuclear cooperation only with countries which signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and which instituted full-scope safeguards on their nuclear energy programmes under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). India and Pakistan are two nations that have both consistently refused to sign the NPT, and voted against UN General Assembly Resolutions which they assert violates their nation's sovereign right[8][9] to choose whether or not to sign such treaties. In early February 1997, Foreign Minister I.K.Gujral re-iterated India's opposition to the treaty, saying that "India favours any step aimed at destroying nuclear weapons, but considers that the treaty in its current form is not comprehensive and bans only certain types of tests". At that time, Canada persistently refused to engage in nuclear co-operation with India and Pakistan until and unless they sign the treaty ended its nuclear collaboration with India for the time being, and severely damaged relations between the two nations. However, in 2010, the signing of the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) between the two countries started a new era of engagement.[10] A follow-on agreement was signed in 2015 to supply 3000 metric ton Uranium concentrate to India under five-year contract.[11]

Indira Gandhi was the second Indian prime minister to make a joint session of the Canadian Parliament, on 19 June 1973. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the first on 24 October 1949.[12]

Canadian and Indian prime ministers Stephen Harper and Narendra Modi visit a memorial for Air India Flight 182 in Toronto, 2015

The bombing by Sikh separatists of Air India Flight 182 in 1985 resulted in Canada and India maintain a bilateral dialogue on anti-terrorism, including an annual meeting of the Canada-India Strategic Dialogue, as well as regular meetings of the aforementioned Canada-India Working Group on Counter-Terrorism.[4]

In the 1990s, a chance to improve Indo-Canadian relations arose when India instituted major reforms of its economy. India went through a large economic liberalisation, which attracted the attention of the Canadian government and the business community. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien paid a diplomatic mission to India in January 1996 with two cabinet ministers and 300 business figures. India's External Affairs Minister Inder Kumar Gujral paid an official visit to Canada in September 1996. Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy reciprocated with a visit to India in January 1997 during which he inaugurated the Office of the Canadian High Commission in Chandigarh, capital of Punjab and Haryana states. The Canada-India Working Group on Counter- Terrorism was also established in 1997, bringing together on an annual basis several departments and agencies of the Canadian and Indian governments. Former Governor General Roméo LeBlanc undertook a state visit to India in March 1998. Prime Minister Stephen Harper took an official visit to India in November 2009. The Canada India Foundation has been active since 2007 in fostering support for stronger bi-lateral relations between Canada and India. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Canada in June 2010 for the G20 Summit in Toronto.

2011 was dubbed the "Year of India in Canada," a joint initiative by both governments. Under this auspice, in June 2011, the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce co-hosted with the government of India the regional Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, a conference of the diaspora. This conference hosted over 1,000 delegates from India and Canada's governmental, business, medical, scientific, and philanthropic sectors. This event was followed up by the International Indian Film Academy Awards held in Toronto in June 2011.

Prime ministers Modi and Justin Trudeau during Trudeau's official visit to India in 2018

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent a week in India on a state visit in February 2018. Most commentators called it a failure or a disaster because of Canadian tolerance for the Sikh separatists operating in Canada.[13][14]

In December 2020, Trudeau expressed concerns about the handling of farmer protests by the Indian government.[15] Trudeau stated that "Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protestors" and expressed support for "the process of dialogue."[16] In response, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs stated that Prime Minister Trudeau's comments were "an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs".[17]

In September 2023, during the 2023 G20 New Delhi summit, Canada and India did not have a one-on-one meeting, but instead met on the sidelines.[18] Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised concerns with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about Sikh protests in Canada, while Trudeau brought up the accusations of Indian government involvement in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.[19] The talks between the two leaders were tense, affecting ongoing trade discussions. Later that month, Trudeau spoke in the House of Commons on what he stated were credible accusations of Indian government involvement in the murder of Nijjar.[20] Subsequently, diplomatic relations between the two nations further deteriorated and each side announced the expulsion of a top diplomat.[19][21] On 20 September, India issued warnings to its citizens in Canada that they should "exercise utmost caution" due to "growing anti-India activities".[22] Marc Miller, Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, rejected India's characterization of Canada as unsafe in a statement.[22]

Trade relationship[edit]

Preneet Kaur, the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs signs a memorandum of understanding on cooperation on information and communication technology with Ed Fast, the Canadian Minister of International Trade and Asia Pacific Gateway. The prime ministers of both countries are seated at the centre, 2012.

Canada and India enjoy a prosperous trading relationship. Since 2004, despite the late-2000s recession, trade has increased by over 70%. In 2009, Canadian exports to India totalled C$2.1 billion, while in the same year Canadian imports from India totalled C$2.0 billion, giving Canada a C$100 million trade surplus.[4] India celebrated the year 2012 as year of India in Canada to promote business, cultural and political relations with India.

Despite the warm relationship, trade between Canada and India is less than their potential. India accounts for less than 1% of Canada's total export and total import in 2014, with bilateral trade of C$5.77 billion in 2014 (compared to more than C$56 billion bilateral trade between China and Canada). Nevertheless, total trade between the two countries grows steadily over the past 5 years.[23]

Canada and India are currently holding negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to improve the trade relations between the two countries. As of March 2015, the two countries held their 9th round of negotiations in New Delhi.[24]

Canada's Merchandise Trade with India 2015[25]

With more than $13.7 billion in trade, India was Canada’s 10th largest two-way merchandise trade partner in 2022, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Jean-Pierre J. Godbout said. Canadian merchandise exports to India totaled $5.3 billion, ranking ninth, Godbout said. But Trudeau had frosty encounters with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Group of 20 meeting in New Delhi. Trade talks have been paused and a planned trade mission to India has been canceled.

Canadian Imports from India Canadian Exports to India
Merchandise Classification % of total imports Merchandise Classification % of total exports
1 Boilers, mechanical appliances, etc. 8.43 Edible vegetables, roots and tubers 36.06
2 Mineral fuels, oils 6.91 Pearls, precious stones or metals 12.33
3 Pearls, precious stones or metals 6.75 Fertilizers 8.59
4 Organic chemicals 6.41 Ores, slag and ash 8.33
5 Woven clothing and apparel articles 5.66 Paper and paperboard 6.22
6 Pharmaceutical products 5.47 Mineral fuels, oils 4.28
7 Iron or steel articles 5.06 Boilers, mechanical appliances, etc. 4.28
8 Other textile articles, etc. 4.45 Aircraft and spacecraft 4.28
9 Knitted or crocheted apparel 4.16 Woodpulp; paper or paperboard scraps 4.17
10 Electrical machinery and equipment 3.64 Electrical machinery and equipment 1.68
% of Total from India 56.94 % of Total To India 90.23
Indian Imports as % of total Canadian imports 0.74 Indian Exports as % of total Canadian exports 0.88

Resident diplomatic missions[edit]

As both countries are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, Canada and India exchange high commissioners rather than ambassadors.

Air connectivity[edit]

Air Canada operates non-stop flights from Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver to Delhi, and from Toronto to Mumbai.[28] In September 2019, Air India resumed its nonstop flights from Delhi to Toronto, and in October 2020 began scheduled flights from Delhi to Vancouver.[29] Indian carrier Vistara has expressed interest in flying nonstop from Delhi to Toronto as its first North American destination, while Canadian carrier WestJet has noted India as part of its expansion plans with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.[30][31] In May 2022, Union Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia met with Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra to discuss an open skies policy between the two countries.[32] This would allow unlimited flights between Canada and India. [33][34][35]

See also[edit]


  1. "Sanjay Kumar Verma appointed India's High Commissioner to Canada : The Tribune India".
  2. "Watch: Canadian High Commissioner, summoned by India, slams door on reporter". India Today.
  3. "Canada–India Relations". Government of Canada. 4 June 2008. Archived from the original on 8 June 2008. Retrieved 11 June 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Canada–India Relations". Government of Canada. Archived from the original on 21 February 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  5. Unoki, Ko (21 February 2022). Racism, Diplomacy, and International Relations. Routledge. pp. 60+. ISBN 978-1-000-54154-0.
  6. Indo-Canadians
  7. "Documents on Canadian External Relations". Foreign affairs and International Trade, Canada. Archived from the original on 25 April 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  8. Template:UN document
  9. Template:UN document
  10. Ninan, Ronnie (27 February 2020). India and Canada: A Promising Future Together and What to Expect in Modi 2.0. IndraStra Global. p. 7.
  11. Chaudhury, Dipanjan Roy (14 July 2018). "First tranche of Canadian uranium for India's nuclear reactors arrives after four decades". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  12. "Heads of States and Governments who have addressed joint sessions of the senate and house of Commons of Canada". Archived from the original on 11 November 2015. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
  13. Budhwar, 2018, p 5.
  14. Huizhong Wu, "From 'snub' to scandal, Trudeau's India visit sparks outrage" CNN, February 23, 2018
  15. "'We are very worried': Canada PM Trudeau backs farmer protests in India – The Week". Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  16. Roy, Shubhajit (1 December 2020). "Canada's Justin Trudeau backs farmers' protests; India says remarks 'ill-informed'". Indian Express. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  17. Bhattacharjee, Kallol (4 December 2020). "Farmers' protest | India summons Canadian High Commissioner; issues demarche over Trudeau's remarks". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X.
  18. Mogul, Rhea; Newton, Paula (18 September 2023). "India expels Canadian diplomat in tit-for-tat move as row over assassinated Sikh activist deepens". CNN. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Tasker, John Paul. "Trudeau accuses India's government of involvement in killing of Canadian Sikh leader". CBC News. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  20. Austen, Ian; Isai, Vjosa (18 September 2023). "Justin Trudeau Accuses India of a Killing on Canadian Soil". New York Times. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  21. "How Canada-India Relations Crumbled". Time. 19 September 2023.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Thanthong-Knight, Randy (20 September 2023). "India Strikes at Canada With Warning to Students, Immigrants". Retrieved 20 September 2023.
  23. "International merchandise trade for all countries and by Principal Trading Partners, monthly". Statistics Canada. 18 November 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  24. "Canada-India Free Trade Agreement Negotiations". Archived from the original on 1 February 2017. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  25. "Canada's Merchandise Trade with India | Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada". Archived from the original on 9 September 2018. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  26. Canada, Global Affairs (18 May 2021). "High Commission of Canada in India, in New Delhi". GAC.
  27. High Commission of India in Ottawa
  28. "Stockhouse". Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  29. "Air India resumes Toronto service from late-Sep 2019". Routesonline. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  30. "Air Canada". Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  31. "WestJet Makes its Future Clear as it Places 787 Dreamliner Order – Aeronautics". Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  32. "India, Canada to allow more flights, revise pact". Trend.Az. 6 May 2022. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  33. Mumbai, Disha Shah Ghosh- (5 May 2022). "India, Canada discuss expansion of air services pact - TravelBiz Monitor: India travel news, travel trends, tourism". Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  34. Times, The South Asian. "India, Canada discuss open skies policy". Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  35. "A look at Canada and India and their relationship, by the numbers". Associated Press. Retrieved 20 September 2023.

Further reading[edit]

  • Budhwar, Prem K. et al. "India-Canada Relations: a Roller-Coaster Ride." Indian Foreign Affairs Journal 13.1 (2018): 1-50. online essays by seven experts
  • Chandrasekhar, Sripati (1986). From India to Canada: a brief history of immigration, problems of discrimination, admission and assimilation. Population Review Books. ISBN 9780960908011.
  • Coward, Howard, ed. Peace. Development and Culture: Comparative Studies of lndia and Canada (Calgary: Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute. 1988).
  • Dobell, W. M. "Canada and India: The Mulroney Years." Journal of Asian and African Studies 25.3-4 (1990): 131-145.
  • Edwards, Lucie. "The lady is a tiger: Canada's erratic courtship of India." Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 18#3 (2012): 264–266.
  • Grewal, J.S. and Hugh Johnston, eds. The India-Canada Relationship -- Exploring Political, Economic and Cultural Dimensions (London: Sage/Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, 1994).
  • Gupta, Ashis, ed. Canada-lndia Opportunities - Selected 1988 Conference Proceedings, (University of Calgary, 1988)
  • Mishra, Anil Dutta and Govind Prasad (2003). India and Canada: Past, Present & Future. Mittal Publications. ISBN 9788170998785.
  • Raj, Christopher S. and Abdul Nafey (2007). Canada's global engagements and relations with India. Manak Publications. ISBN 978-81-7827-168-2.
  • Reid, Escott. Envoy to Nehru (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1981).
  • Rubinoff, Arthur, ed. Canada and South Asia: Political and Strategic Relations (University of Toronto Press, 1992).
  • Rubinoff, Arthur G. "Canada's re-engagement with India." Asian Survey 42.6 (2002): 838–855. online
  • Rudner, Martin. "The Canada‐India nexus: Trade and development assistance in Canada's new foreign policy framework." Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 3.2 (1995): 33-50.
  • Singh, Milan, and Anita Singh. "Diaspora, political action, and identity: A case study of Canada’s Indian diaspora." Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies 17.2 (2014): 149-171. online
  • Touhey, Ryan. Conflicting Visions: Canada and India in the Cold War World, 1946-76 (U British Columbia Press, 2015)

External links[edit]

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