TORONTO: Canada’s International Trade Minister Mary Ng’s visit to India earlier this month could mark the first in a series of bilateral ministerial-level meetings between the two countries in the coming months, people familiar with the matter said.
The most important such visit may be Treasury Secretary Nirmala Sitharaman’s trip to Canada this spring for bilateral meetings with Canadian officials, including Deputy Prime Minister and Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland.
That journey has yet to be completed and is under review, one of the people quoted above told HT, requesting anonymity. Sitharaman last visited Canada in September 2016 when she was serving as Secretary of Commerce, and coincidentally, Freeland, then Canada’s Minister for International Trade, was her then-interlocutor in bilateral talks.
The last major visit to Canada by an Indian cabinet minister was in December 2019 when Secretary of State S. Jaishankar met then-Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne.
In fact, Ng’s visit to India was the first by a Canadian cabinet minister in over four years since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s disastrous trip in February 2018.
There may have been other visits in the near future, such as by Defense Minister Anita Anand or Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, but those timelines are fluid given the crisis created by Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The engagement will be set in motion by the economic ties first, before the security and strategic aspects, said the people quoted above.
A beginning in the latter sphere, however, was already taking place when Marta Morgan, Deputy Minister at Global Affairs Canada, also visited India last week and interacted with officials such as Secretary of State Harsh Shringla. Morgan is the longest-serving bureaucrat in the ministry led by Joly.
These talks were comprehensive and covered the developing situation in Ukraine as well as in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Important aspects of the foreign policy consultations concerned the Indo-Pacific region and focused on China and the Quad – the formation that includes India, the US, Japan and Australia.
Morgan tweeted last Tuesday the talks covered a “broad range of issues of common interest.” According to the State Department, there was a “productive exchange of views on bilateral, global and regional issues of common concern.”
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Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues and author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York in print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb….view detail