India thirsts for Canadian energy – by Matthew Fisher (National Post – October 30, 2012)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper can expect a warm, even rapturous welcome when he arrives Sunday in India on what is to be an unusually long six-day trip to the subcontinent to drum up business for Canada. Coming with the prime minister are several cabinet ministers and a large group of senior businessmen.

As in so many other areas of foreign trade, Canada was astonishingly late to twig to the opportunities presented by India’s $2-trillion-a-year economy. Canada’s Achilles heel has often been that its governments and business people “thought small.” But Canada was also badly hurt in India because “it was preachy, which made India prickly,” according to Nandan Unnikrishnan, vice-president of the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.

Successive Canadian governments ignored India for decades, except to scold it over its nuclear policies and the human rights of those whom India considered terrorists. Canada’s policy greatly irritated India and achieved nothing except to make a few Canadians feel morally superior while costing the Canadian economy dearly.

The cant over moral issues has almost totally disappeared since Harper’s government won its first majority in May 2011 and made improving Canada’s economy through trade its main international focus. This pragmatic, common-sensical approach to diplomacy and trade was long overdue and has found an eager ear in India.

“Harper is sensitive to India and is loved for it,” said Raja Mohan, director of Strategic Studies for India’s OFL. “Because of the nuclear issue, the relationship collapsed in the ’70s. Harper’s government has chosen to break out of that nuclear theology and has opened up trade. There are real synergies for the first time.”

The prime minister seeks to triple trade with India to $15-billion a year within three years. That would take Canada from the bottom to the top of the second tier of India’s trading partners. The strategy has three main parts: education, agriculture and energy. Ottawa seeks to greatly increase the number of post-secondary students from India studying in Canada from the more than 12,000 a year today.

For the rest of this article, please go to the National Post website: http://business.financialpost.com/2012/10/30/india-thirsts-for-canadian-energy/

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