Canada won’t resume trade talks with India unless the Narendra Modi government cooperates into the murder probe of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Vancouver last June, Trade Minister Mary Ng indicated.
The minister made the remarks on Wednesday (Nov 15) on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the US city of San Francisco.
Responding to a reporter’s question about whether the two countries would resume trade talks, Ng said, “Right now, the focus for Canada is to let the work of the investigation proceed.”
“You’ve heard me and the government talk about how important it is that investigation happens given that we had a Canadian killed on Canadian soil. So we’ll let that happen.”
Canadian minister says focus on investigation
The minister said that regardless of the pause in trade talks, the Canadian business community has been operating in India, and added that she would make sure that they have the required support they need, CBC News reported.
Ng said Canadian businesses continue to do business in India and her job as trade minister is to make sure they have the support and tools they need.
When asked if cooperation in the murder probe is a prerequisite to normalisation of ties between Canada and India, the minister clarified “no”.
“Our focus is of course on this investigation, that work has to take place. And for Canadian businesses, just to reassure them, because they expect that of their government, that the tools are available to them as they continue to do business and to invest and to make investments and attract investment, that the services of the Canadian government continue to be there for them.”
Even before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came out with explosive allegations about the “Indian government agents” role in the killing of Nijjar, the Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) between India and Canada had been in limbo.
India-Canada trade talks in limbo
In September, days before Trudeau’s allegations, India’s High Commissioner to Canada Sanjay Kumar Verma told The Canadian Press that trade talks had paused by Canada. He, however, did not give a complete explanation at that time.
A Team Canada Trade Mission to India, scheduled for October and led by Ng, was also called off.
India-Canada trade stood at $8.16 billion in 2022-23, which is much less in comparison to $128.7 billion in India’s trade with the US.
India primarily imports potash needs from Canada, which is the world’s biggest exporter.
Canada imports pharmaceuticals, gems and jewellery, textiles, machinery, pulses, timber, pulp and paper, and mining products.
(With inputs from agencies)