As most of you already know, there is a new leadership team at CIF. Change is a constant in a dynamic process, and in an organization like CIF, it is also an agent for reenergizing and rejuvenation. The new Board has been tasked with the big responsibility of continuing the work so efficiently carried on by a very talented and dedicated leadership for the past 16 years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my immediate predecessor, Satish Thakkar and his fellow Board members for their exemplary work on the Canada-India file. I also want to name the other past Chairs of CIF, Surjit Babra, Ramesh Chotai, Barj Dhahan, Lucky Lakshmanan, Ajit Someshwar and Anil Shah and thank them and their team for building a strong foundation for CIF. They leave us big shoes to fill, but we will give all we have to live up to your expectations.
There is a saying which I really like – Don’t just change, transform. Human beings are wired for transformation. Our most extraordinary quality as a species is the ability to learn and adapt to nearly any situation. Our brains search for patterns, anticipate threats, and problem-solve so we can thrive wherever we find ourselves. It is what enables us to live in extreme cold and extreme heat, to make miraculous advances in technology to better ourselves continuously, and to ponder the meaning of our existence. This is our time as a community, society and as a country to transform ourselves.
But it all starts with “I.” Individual transformation is an internal shift that brings us in alignment with our highest potential. It is at the heart of every major aspect of our lives. It affects how we see and relate to the world and how we understand our place in it. It is time we all start thinking about what we are giving to this beautiful country Canada we call home and what goodwill and goodness we are carrying from back home. In my tenure, I would love to reach out to each one of you in this transformational shift and making sure we grow together. Together we will wear our heart on our sleeves – “Canada First.”
Canada is a country populated by immigrants. As immigrants from the greatest civilization of the world, the Indian civilization, we are also equally proud of our homeland of India. There is no contradiction in my statement. We are first and foremost Canadians, and our clear philosophy should be Canada First. In this regard, I am so happy to note that the Indo Canadian community has been a force for good in Canada – productive, peaceful and loyal. It is also important to recognize that we are no longer a community of first generation immigrants, but also of second, third and even later generation of immigrants, born in Canada, or even born in a third country and subsequently migrated to Canada, but our love for our country of origin does not diminish and only complements our loyalty to Canada.
Every new immigrant strives to get ahead in life, both personally and professionally. It helps to associate yourself with like-minded individuals who also assist you in achieving your life goals. I have always been very conscious about my final score in life. The choices that I make can and must constructively contribute to the society we are part of and our homeland Canada. My association with CIF gave my life a special purpose and a new meaning and I have enjoyed every moment of my time at CIF since then. So, thank you all.
This is my first message to you as Chair. I would like to outline the current situation in the Canada India bilateral space and then list some of my priorities as Chair going forward.
The present impasse between our two countries is troubling and a serious setback, but there is no doubt that the relations can and will be brought back on track. That’s what mature governments, concerned with the welfare of the people, do naturally. Let’s not forget, Canada and India are both thriving democracies, each in its own way a role model on how democracies should function. We may not always agree on everything. But, as long as the dialogue is kept alive, solutions will emerge for problems.
There can be no argument on the enormous potential inbuilt in this relationship. Canada India Foundation was formed on the premise that this relationship is critical and holds out maximum promise for both Canada and India. This sentiment, clearly outlined in Canada’s recently defined Indo Pacific strategy, is an accepted fact in Ottawa. CIF will continue its established goal of supporting a strong and mutually rewarding economic relationship. We are all in in favour of concluding a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with India. Just a short time ago, we were so close to realizing this dream, which had been nurtured by stakeholders in both countries for so many decades. Unfortunately, it seems we will have to wait for some more time.
India today is the fastest growing major economy in the world. According to most experts, it will become the third biggest economy in a few years. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for great trading nations like Canada to seize the moment and become a preferred trading partner for India. Canada is a leader in the technologies associated with several business sectors that India is investing in such as clean energy, food-processing and mining. Canada is also blessed with an abundance of resources, including critical metals, demanded by a growing economy like India. Our bilateral trade is just over the $10 billion mark now, a woefully low number considering the potential, which could someday touch $100 billion. No, that’s not wishful thinking. Look at the India-China trade figures – it stands at over US$100 billion and most of the volume coming as imports from China. And we cannot say that India and China do not have their own serious differences! Canada has a great opportunity here, and CIF will be fully invested in continuing to highlight it and take on initiatives to help achieve the potential.
India is also critical to Canada’s future. As the No.1 source country for immigrants and students, Indians will play a defining role in Canada’s society and economy in the coming years. Besides, as India grows and its entrepreneurs scout the world looking to expand, Canada, with its proximity to USA, is a natural home to set up businesses and many Indian businesses have already done so. India already boasts of nearly 120 unicorns, with many more expected soon. Canada’s highly successful Indo-Canadian community, with strong business and personal ties to India, could play a major role in wooing Indian businesses to Canada. The community is expected to reach the two million mark in a few years and they must and will play a huge role in not just repairing the current situation but also building the trade momentum. Each one of you can play a role by helping create a conducive atmosphere at home for a close and mutually respectful relationship between our countries. This is our land now, and we must always put Canada First. That also makes us responsible to do everything that will strengthen Canada. A greater engagement with India does just that. Let us resolve not to be hijacked by small factions whose sole aim may be to derail such a positive outcome. Let us stay strong and united for the sake of everyone including the next generation of Indo Canadians.
I urge you to get involved at whatever level by supporting those who have a positive vision of the future of our relationship and rejecting those who offer no hope.
Once again, I extend my most heart-felt thanks to everyone at CIF as well those of you who are fellow travelers in this noble mission of building a wonderful Canada India bilateral relationship. Stay tuned and keep those comments and suggestions coming.