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Indo-Canadian economic ties to get a boost

Last updated on: August 11, 2006 14:31 IST

Indo-Canadian relations are set to take off with the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper laying out a detailed roadmap for bilateral cooperation. Business leaders in Toronto are pitching for strong expansion of trade ties between the two countries.

India is now being recognised by Canada as one of the most attractive destinations in the world not just for trade or for investment, but also for cutting edge high-tech excellence," Shyamala B Cowsik, Indian high commissioner to Canada, said.

Major Canadian companies such as the engineering consultancy firm SNC Lavalin, aerospace major Bombardier, Sun Life Insurance, Bell Helicopters, have already made inroads into Indian market and doing good business in the country, and their ranks are now being swelled, she said.

"While the present level of trade, investment and overall business interaction between Canada and India are way below potential, the trend is for strong expansion in the near future," she said.

The recent change of government in Canada had not affected this in any way, with Conservative Harper having laid out a detailed roadmap for bilateral cooperation in a recent letter to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh. The latter is due to pay an official visit to Canada next year.

"For Canada and India, old friends and sister democracies, their relationship is truly set for a take-off," Cowsik added.

India's hi-tech capabilities should be seen not as a threat, but as a transformational tool that can help foreign firms improve their global competitive edge.

Describing oil and gas as a new sunrise sector for bilateral investment, Cowsik said Niko Resources of Alberta, in a 10:90 partnership with Reliance Industries, had struck the largest natural gas find in Southeastern India, and Calgary firm, Canoro, had found oil in Northeastern India.

As a result, Canadian interest in exploring oil and gas in India had gone up substantially, she said adding India had also established a framework for cooperation.

India has signed an agreement with the Alberta Research Council to improve the data repository concerning the Indian sedimentary basins, and New Delhi is contemplating investments in the Alberta oil sands.

In environment technology, where Canada is a world leader, she said the two countries are planning to establish a Hi-tech Forum for bilateral cooperation.

"This would be not yet another policy discussing body, but primarily a public-private partnership between the governments and the private sectors on both sides, to act, again, as a conveyor belt for introducing Canadian environmental technologies in India," she said.

The Canadian side is increasingly interested in cooperation in higher education.

However, Canadians themselves have created a major road block by the overly restrictive and time-consuming visa regime, she said. "The wait times are too long and the rejection rate is too high, especially seeing that Canada faces stiff competition in this regard not just from the US but also from Australia and New Zealand and the UK."

"If Canada is serious about expanding ties with India in higher education, Canada would have to do something about this problem, which in fact extends to business visas as well," Cowsik said.

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