Reinforcing ties with India a priority: Canadian Defence Minister Sajjan

The upcoming visit to India is your first as a minister in the Trudeau’s Cabinet. How do you see it?
I see this visit as an opportunity to meet my counterparts and discuss opportunities to strengthen ties between Canada and India, particularly when it comes to defence and security, business and innovation, and, of course, the rich culture that so many in the Indian diaspora bring to Canada. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to build on the excellent work that my cabinet colleagues have done on their recent trips to India.

India and Canada share good bilateral ties and defence cooperation is a somewhat newer field in it. What is expected to be on the table in your talks with your counterpart?
Canada is often thought of in the same way as our European and North American allies, partially because of the excellent work Canadian armed forces do in cooperation with NATO. But this only tells half the story, because Canada is as much a Pacific nation as it is an Atlantic nation. Canada recognises India as a key player in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. As such, this visit is an opportunity to enhance and strengthen Canada’s bilateral cooperation with India on areas of mutual importance like security, defence, and trade. We have detailed areas of defence cooperation through the 2015 joint declaration and are seeking to move forward on areas such as cold-climate warfare, cooperation in defence research and science and expanding engagement in defence industry. Our relationship is multifaceted and encompasses trade, political, cultural and people-to-people ties. Reinforcing this relationship remains a priority for the government of Canada.

During PM Modi’s visit, there was mention of exploring training in cold-climate warfare, naval linkages, defence staff exchanges and defence research. Any specific proposals?
Some possibilities could include exploring increased joint maritime exercises, collaboration on peacekeeping or academic exchanges to improve defence leadership, as well as in the fields of defence research and material cooperation. Ultimately, I am hoping to enhance cooperation in these areas by engaging my counterparts and identifying where Canada and India can exchange expertise and knowledge on these fronts.

The accent of the Modi government is “Make in India” and defence manufacturing is one of the thrust areas, how can Canada assist?
Canadian industry is well versed in the use of offsets and in the knowledge transfer that would enable a “Buy Indian” policy. Therefore, doing business in Canada with Canadian companies would greatly benefit India in achieving its policy aim. Canada’s Department of Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada has best practices in applying offset policies to defence acquisitions. Canada’s Industrial and Technological Benefits policy has been instrumental in helping Canadian industry become part of global defence supply chains.

Canada is part of the global supply chain in defence manufacturing. Can this expertise be shared under bilateral cooperation?
Canada has a highly capable defence industry that is actively seeking business opportunities and partnerships around the globe (including in India). I am aware of several Canadian companies that are already approaching Indian industry to form partnerships and explore business opportunities that are compliant with India’s offset policies. For these relationships to be fruitful, it is important that the Indian Government clearly communicates its expectations with respect to its offset policies.

India and Canada have a joint working group on counter-terrorism and national security advisers dialogue. How do you view its progress?
I believe it has progressed well. As you know, it’s been in place since 2012 and we welcomed Deputy National Security Adviser Arvind Gupta to Ottawa this January. Discussions were fruitful and included counter-terrorism, counter-radicalisation, regional security, Daesh, and cyber security.
I believe the dialogue provides a valuable opportunity to exchange perspectives on security issues of mutual concern and identify areas for cooperation and it forms a critical component of Canada’s strong bilateral relationship with India.

Having served in Afghanistan, how do you view the situation?
The situation in Afghanistan is as complex now as it was while I was deployed there some years ago. I believe that Afghanistan continues to make strides in the right direction and Canada remains fully committed to helping Afghanistan achieve long-term stability and prosperity. Though the Canadian armed forces concluded their mission in Afghanistan in 2014, Canada continues to contribute to Afghanistan through extensive humanitarian and development assistance.

Turning to your roots, can you share some recollections? How often have you visited?
This is my first trip to India after becoming Canada’s Minister of National Defence. I left India as a young boy, but have fond memories of going back to visit family. It has been over a decade since I last visited. My life has changed greatly since I visited last—I am a father now, I am representing the Canadian government—and I will experience this visit through the lens of those responsibilities.

You and your family are engaged in some philanthropic works in Punjab.
My wife and I support Mamta Foundation because we believe strongly in its goals of promoting gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. We also support Mamta Foundation’s efforts to care for orphaned and abandoned children.

By : Tribune India

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Categories: Geopolitics

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