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India –Canada junkets only photo-ops and not serious business! – Lachman Balani

Posted in S. Asia

Published on September 01, 2015 with No Comments

Recently the chief minister from Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, was in Toronto and was feted by two main Indo-Canada bodies, the Canada India Foundation (CIF) and the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC). Many local newspapers as well as the prestigious Economic Times of India reported these events.

Several other high level diplomats from India have come here to Canada in the past and been similarly honoured.

Even though galas and dinners are all very commendable, many people in the Indo-Canada community wonder about the end purpose of these ministers’ trips; both those who come from India to Canada and those who go from Canada to India.

In theory it is to boost the bilateral relations, trade and investments. At a recent ICCC event, Minister of International trade Ed Fast commented that not only he but several other high-ranking diplomats including the Prime Minster, MPs, Ministers of State and senators in the Canadian government had made numerous business expeditions to India to boost bi-lateral trade by not just limiting ventures to the usual exchange of merchandise but also developing new spheres of engagements such as education.

As we all are aware, trade in the last decade has gone from just $5bn to $6bn and is very much short of the commitment by Prime Ministers Stephen Harper and Manmohan Singh to boost bilateral trade to $15bn by 2015. This shows a serious lack of dedication. As a matter of fact, the business minded people of ICCC noted that such a minimal increase, looking at it from the Canadian side only takes into account inflation (2-2.5% annually), so there is no real increase at all. If one looks at it from the Indian side where inflation rides high at 7%-9% depending on the year (it has just recently dropped to below 7%) and even taking into account exchange rates of INR 37/38 to one CAD in 2005 to about INR 50 to a CAD today, the bilateral trade has had a negative growth.

Noted one member of ICCC: “these junkets are just that: ‘junk’! Every year they go on a mission in January to India and nothing is accomplished. Ministers come and go just like tourists!”

Even though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, because the high level junkets have indeed added value to bilateral relations, it is time the Indo-Canada bodies go beyond relations, photo-ops, lunches and dinners and take on the serious responsibility of working on the underlying goal of really increasing trade and taking it to new heights and do our level best to reach the promised land of $15 billion.



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