Canada indefinitely postpones trade mission to India amid tensions

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  • Canada trade minister is postponing a planned trade mission to India. 
  • The trade mission was announced when Commerce and Industry Ministry Piyush Goyal was in Canada for a bilateral visit in May this year. 
  • Canadian Trade Minister is postponing it, reflecting increasingly tense diplomatic relations just days after India’s prime minister scolded his Canadian counterpart at a G20 summit in New Delhi. 
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held formal bilateral meetings with many world leaders during the G20 summit, snubbed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, allowing only a short, informal meeting on the side-lines five days ago. 
  • Canada has the highest population of Sikhs outside their home state of Punjab in India, and the country has been the site of many protests that have irked India. 
  • “They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship,” India’s government said after the leaders met. 

Canadian trade mission to India postponed indefinitely due to trade talks suspension and concerns over pro-Khalistan activities. After placing a “pause” on the Early Progress Trade Agreement or EPTA in August, the Canadian Government has now indefinitely postponed a trade mission to India scheduled for October.

The five-day Team Canada trade mission was to be led by Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development Mary Ng and begin on October 9. However, Canadian media reported on Friday that it had been postponed. The agency Canadian Press cited Ng’s office in this regard, adding it gave no reason for the postponement. A senior Indian official said they became aware of the decision only through the media.

The announcement came hours after officials in New Delhi said that trade talks with Canada have been suspended till subversive activities are allowed in Canadian territory. “New Delhi will not engage in trade talks with any country that allows subversive activities against India or its people,” a senior official had told the media.

The trade mission was announced when Commerce and Industry Ministry Piyush Goyal was in Canada for a bilateral visit in May this year.

This postponement is the latest development in the fracturing of the relationship over pro-Khalistan activities in Canada. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had conveyed New Delhi’s “strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada” to his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau during their pull aside meeting in Delhi on the margins of the G20 leaders’ summit. Within hours, the secessionist group Sikhs for Justice hastily arranged the so-called Khalistan Referendum at a gurudwara in Surrey, British Columbia and then announced yet another round of voting on October 29 in the same town.

Reacting to the news of the trade mission being called off for the time being, Goldy Hyder, President and CEO, Business Council of Canada, said, “Canada and India share a deeply rooted and mutually beneficial economic partnership with a strong history and a bright future. We expect this relationship to continue irrespective of political tensions that may occur from time to time.”

(With inputs from agencies)

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