TORONTO: Even as 10 Indo-Canadians were recognized for shining in various fields at the annual Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce gala night here on Saturday, Canadian foreign minister John Baird said Canada and India were on the threshold of a new era on their relationship.
Addressing the cream of the Indo-Canadian and mainstream communities at the Metro Convention Centre here, Baird said Canada is according the highest priority to deepening its relationship with India.
The India-Canada friendship has so much “unrealized potential’ as the two countries have so much in common and so much to offer to each other, he said.
Indirectly referring to the Canadian nuclear sanctions on India slapped after the 1974 nuclear blasts, Baird said the nuclear deal signed by the two prime ministers in June 2010 would bury 40 years of troubled relationship.
The minister said the significance that Canada attaches to its relationship with New Delhi can be gauged from the fact that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has paid “the longest and most productive visit’’ of his tenure to India.
One of the major achievements of Prime Minister Harper’s visit to India, he said, was the finalization of the social security agreement that would benefit the two countries in business and manpower exchanges.
Referring to the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) likely to be signed by the year-end, the Canadian foreign minister said the “two PMs have tasked our officials to triple the trade by 2015’’ from the current levels of five-billion plus.
Once Canada and India sign CEPA, it would boost the two economies by $6 billion each, Baird said. Towards this end, Canada was beefing up its trade presence in India, added.
“CEPA will realise the full trade potential of our relationship,’’ Baird said, adding that the companies in two countries signed deals worth $2.5 billion last year.
With over 29,000 Indian student studying in Canadian educational institutional, the minister said, “India is the second largest source of students studying in Canada.’’
The education sector offered huge opportunities for Canada as India needed 800 more universities in the coming years to educate 500 million young people, the foreign minister said.
In her speech, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne lauded the 36 years of services by the ICCC as “part of our shared history.”
Calling the million-strong Indian diaspora Canada’s bridge with India, she said, the half of this diaspora lives in her Ontario province, and they “are building bridges and helping us to explore and expand relations” with India.
Recalling the two missions to India by her predecessor Dalton McGuinty, she said those visits led to the signing of contracts worth $650 million between Indian and Ontario companies. “I want to build upon it (McGuinty’s missions to India) and this work has already begun,” the Premier said.
Wynne said Ontario was looking forward to two missions to India to focus on cooperation information and technology and industry, including the auto sector.
The Premier, who began her speech with Sat Sri Akal, Namaste and Aslam-alaykum ended it with `bahut bahut shukriya’ amid applause by the gathering.
Earlier, welcoming the huge gathering, ICCC president Naval Bajaj said that in its 36-year history the chamber has made a huge contribution to Canada-India business relations.
He said trade ties between the two countries are set to enter the second phase. “India-Canada trade which is on the runway, is about to take off,” he said, adding that the ICCC has become the voice of small and medium businesses.
In the coming months, Bajaj said, the ICCC will host delegations from Kerala, Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan.
Apart from John Baird and Kathleen Wynne, the gathering also included federal ministers Bal Gosal and Tim Uppal, Deepak Obhrai, MPs, MPPs and mayors.
Stewart Beck, Canadian high commission in India, was given the President’s Award for promoting ties with India.
Here is the list of those honoured on the occasion:
Female Entrepreneur – Raj Girn, Founder and president of Anokhi Media
Male Entrepreneur – Sujay Shah, President, Shashi Foods and Kii Naturals Inc.
Female Professional – Sadhna Joshi, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto
Male Professional – Raj Kothari, Managing Partner (GTA), PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
Young Achiever1 – Bilaal Rajan, Youth and Environmental Social Activist
Young Achiever2 – Sapna Shah, Medical Research Student
Technology Achievement – Nilesh Bansal, Founder Sysomos
Corporate Executive – Deepak Chopra, President and CEO, Canada Post Corporation
Humanitarian of the Year – Chandrasekhar Sankurathri, Founder, Manjari Sankurathri Memorial Foundatin & Sankurathri Foundation
Lifetime/Outstanding Achievement – Jagannath Wani, Social Worker and Philanthropist
President’s Award – Stewart Beck, High Commissioner of Canada to India
Member of the Year Award – Women Entrepreneurs and Professionals Committee – Shibani Sahney, Ravi Malhi, Mini Khurana, Ginni Sethi and Smita Dayal