There is a sense of comfort that India-Canada ties will remain upbeat as a new government, led by Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau, is set to assume charge in Ottawa.
When the leader of the Liberal Party called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the latter’s hotel during his visit to Canada in April, discussions between the two occurred in what diplomats described as a “very relaxed, warm and cordial” atmosphere.
That sense of informality was heightened as Trudeau brought along his young daughter. Modi invited Trudeau to visit India, and if he accepts, he’ll be going to New Delhi as the Prime Minister of Canada.
As Modi tweeted his congratulations to Trudeau, he recalled their encounter in Toronto: “I have fond memories of my visit to Canada in April 2015 and my meeting with you.”
Despite the easy nature of their interaction, their talks were substantive in terms of items that featured on the agenda, including trade.
As one diplomat pointed out, “We have a strategic, broad-based partnership. There is mutuality of interest, great complementarity in economic matters, the biggest driver of our relationship, and huge convergence in long-term geopolitical interests. We are very optimistic.”
That sense of optimism stems from interactions with senior advisors to Trudeau, some of whom may feature in his Cabinet, who place “high importance on India-Canada linkages”.
Officials said “contacts will be renewed on government formation” and that will include the annual India-Canada strategic dialogue.
Trudeau had earlier visited India as a pre-teen when he accompanied his father, then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet (CHOGM) hosted in New Delhi in 1983 by the late Indira Gandhi.
The two leaders may have plenty of chances to meet in the weeks ahead – at multilateral meets, including the G-20 summit in Turkey during November 15-16, the CHOGM in Malta later that month, an APEC summit in the Philippines and the global climate change meet in Paris.
Not that there aren’t concerns. Trudeau’s Liberal Party has a reputation of being somewhat soft on pro-Khalistan elements in Canada. Also, India-Canada ties plummeted to new depths during the tenure of the elder Trudeau over the Pokhran nuclear test in May 1974 and, later, as Ottawa gave refugee status to many Sikh separatists.
It took outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper to jumpstart the stalled engine of the India-Canada relationship but the feeling is that the motor will keep purring along under a new dispensation.