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​Why the world is wooing India?

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It’s defense deals, stupid!

On the day India launched a French earth observation satellite and four smaller satellites from Germany, Canada and Singapore, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was in New Delhi for talks.

The wheel has come full circle in just about four decades since India and France started their space exploration cooperation. Then, Indian satellites were being launched using French launch vehicles. Now it is the other way round and India is charging $20,000 per kilo for each satellite launched.

Unsurprisingly, the foreign minister of Singapore, another country whose satellite was launched by India, landed up in New Delhi a day after Fabius’ June 30 visit. Shanmugam, who also doubles up as Singapore’s law minister, met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on July 1 and discussed a wide array of bilateral, regional and international issues like Fabius had done with Swaraj the day before.

The next day after the Singaporean foreign minister’s talks with Sushma Swaraj, it was the turn of American Senator John McCain, a former Presidential candidate, to sit with the Indian foreign minister. Later this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry too is visiting New Delhi.

The United Kingdom also sending two of its top ministers – Foreign Minister William Hague and Finance Minister George Osborne – to New Delhi later this month.

So, what is happening? Why have leaders from three P5 nations chosen to visit New Delhi in such a short space of time? Is there a common thread in their India visits?

Well, here is one word answer: business. No, it is not business in the sense of trade and investment. It is much more lucrative than that. It pertains to defense deals which are generally big-ticket and tend to go into billions of dollars.

Fabius had a big ticket deal to pursue with the Indians during his just-concluded India trip: a six-unit 9900 mw nuclear power plant in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. This deal too is likely to be worth $20 billion once the project is fully operational.

In this photograph released by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) on June 30, 2014, Indian former ISRO scientist B.N Suresh (L) briefs Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the successful launch of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) at the programme's mission control in Sriharikota. (AFP/PIB)

In this photograph released by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) on June 30, 2014, Indian former ISRO scientist B.N Suresh (L) briefs Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the successful launch of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) at the programme’s mission control in Sriharikota. (AFP/PIB)

But a red rag for India with regard to the Jaitapur nuclear plant, apart from protests by environmentalists and anti-nuclear lobbyists, has been that the plant will be based on EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) technology. Ironically, no country in the world has an operational EPR-based nuclear plant, not even France.

Fabius told the Indians three nuclear reactors using EPR technology are in various stages of construction across the world: one each in China, Finland and France.

Another thing on the French foreign minister’s agenda in New Delhi was to make sure the MMRCA (Multi Role Medium Range Combat Aircraft) deal for supply 126 fighter aircraft does not fall through. The deal, once fully implemented, is likely to cost $20 billion.

French plane maker Dassault won the MMRCA global competition in January 2012 but the formal contract is yet to be signed. Officials from India and France are engaged in highly technical negotiations involving issues like pricing, work share and transfer of technology.

These negotiations are going to take three or four months more to conclude. However, Fabius went on record by telling journalists at a news conference in New Delhi that Paris was optimistic about the successful conclusion of the MMRCA deal, and hoped that the formal contract would be signed by the end of this year.

Many rivals who participated in the MMRCA competition are not that optimistic about French chances, and are still sniffing an opportunity to bounce back into the game which is not yet over for them.

The UK, for example, is one of the interested parties. The multinational Eurofighter Typhoon, where UK has a stake, was shortlisted along with the French company Dassault, but was eventually pipped at the post. The UK is deriving solace from the tortuously slow progress of the technical negotiations between Dassault and India.

That is why the UK is sending its two top ministers to India later this month.

Then there is the mother of all attractions for major foreign powers to visit India at this point in time. The new Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is planning to open the Indian defense industry to foreign investment and raise caps on foreign investment in the defense sector which has traditionally remained out of bounds for foreign countries except for a select few like Russia.

There are reports that the Modi government is even toying with the idea of allowing complete foreign ownership of some defense projects with an eye of turning India from a traditional arms importer to a major arms exporter.

This explains the interest of major foreign powers in India, particularly the United States which last year edged out Russia to become India’s number one arms supplier.

The Americans have even sought to sweeten the deal for the Indians by promising co-development and co-production of helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with complete technology transfer thrown in. This has been the USP of the Russians which had made Moscow the biggest arms supplier to New Delhi for decades. But now the Americans are giving tough competition to the Russians for the Indian defense market, by emulating Russian strategies.

Clearly, the Americans are eyeing the vast Indian defense market and are hopeful of sewing up multi-billion dollar defense deals with India when PM Modi travels to Washington on an official bilateral visit in the last week of September.

~Rajeev Sharma is a New Delhi-based journalist, author and strategic analyst. He tweets @Kishkindha and can be reached at bhootnath004@yahoo.com.

 The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IndoCanadians.

Canadian News

Joint statement from the Greater Toronto Area & Hamilton Mayors and Chairs

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory take part in a candlelit vigil to honour the victims of a deadly shooting in Toronto on Wednesday July 25, 2018. Ten-year-old Julianna Kozis of Markham, Ont., and 18-year-old Reese Fallon of Toronto were killed in Sunday's shooting attack, and 13 other people were injured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

We are united in fighting COVID-19 – protecting our residents and saving lives.

While the measures we have taken to stop the spread of the virus have made a difference, this virus has still taken far too many lives in our communities and continues to threaten the lives of our residents.

At the same time, there is no denying the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Jobs have been lost, many businesses have closed or are at risk of closure, and many families are worried about their financial future.

We’ve been hit hard but that’s why it is so important that we keep moving forward and come back as strong as possible.

Today, the GTHA Mayors and Chairs met to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the region and how our municipalities can work together on the economic restart and recovery.

We know the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area alone is projected to lose 355,000 jobs and 28% of GDP along with $894 million in lost wages and $3.7 billion in revenue losses for businesses. This will be felt right across the GTHA but it also threatens the provincial and national economies.

A strong recovery right here in the GTHA is crucial to healing the economic damage done by COVID-19 and helping the families and businesses all governments have been working to protect throughout this emergency.

Ontario’s economy and Canada’s economy need the GTHA to come back stronger than ever when the restart begins.

We are determined to deliver this recovery and we agreed today that the GTHA municipalities will be working together to successfully and smoothly reopen our vital regional economy when the time comes.

We also discussed how we can in a consistent way achieve significant, necessary financial support from the other governments to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect our ability to contribute to the recovery. A strong recovery needs strong cities and regional governments.

We have agreed we will work together to share information about our respective financial positions and explore together measures we can advocate to the other governments which will help to ensure the financial stability of local and regional governments in the GTHA.

Our child care and recreation programs help parents get back to work.

Our emergency services keep people safe.

Our transit systems get people to work and home safely.

Our major infrastructure projects – often built in conjunction with the other governments – will help kick-start the recovery and create countless jobs.

Our economic development activities attract jobs and investment.

We built a strong and vibrant GTHA and we know that we will need to come back even stronger and as quickly as we can in order to keep Canada’s economy going.

With the cooperation and support of the provincial and federal governments, we are ready to rise to this challenge.”

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Canadian News

Four People Charged in Mississauga Pedestrian Fail to Remain Fatality

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Investigators from the Major Collision Bureau have charged four people in Mississauga’s most recent fatal fail to remain collision.

On Thursday, February 15, 2018, at approximately 8:40 p.m., the victim, a 61 year-old female from Mississauga, was struck by a south bound vehicle as she was crossing Mavis Road in the area of Knotty Pine Grove in the City of Mississauga. The vehicle did not remain and the victim, having suffered major injuries, was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Saturday, February 17, 2018 shortly before 7:00 p.m., Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM, a 60 year-old male from Brampton, and the driver believed to be responsible in this incident, surrendered to police at 22 Division. Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM has since been charged with Fail to Remain Cause Death.

Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, a 25 year old female from Brampton, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN a 28 year-old female from Brampton and Gowtham SATKUNARAJAH a 28 year-old male from Brampton have each been charged with Accessory After the Fact in relation to this incident.

Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM will answer to his charge on March 12, 2018. Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN andGowtham SATKUNARAJAH will answer to their charges on Monday March 26, 2018 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton

Anyone who may have witnessed the collision, have dashboard video footage of the incident or who may have any information regarding this incident is asked to contact investigators with the Major Collision Bureau at (905) 453-2121, ext. 3710. Information may also be left anonymously by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or by visiting www.peelcrimestoppers.ca or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word ‘PEEL’ and then your tip.

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Canadian News

Justin Trudeau in India: Hug missing! Mounting pressure?

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The much publicized and anticipated visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India was marred with questions. The questions were centered on the kind of welcome he would be given in the Sikh dominated state of Punjab. Also the famous hug by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was being anticipated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally made his much-touted visit to India. He landed on the Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi only to be received by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat not even a Cabinet Minister in Narendra Modi’s government.

He is presently the second rank Minister of State for Agriculture.  That comes in complete contrast to the warmth that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA government has generally displayed towards the visiting dignitaries.  Only a couple of weeks ago, when the heads of the 10 ASEAN states arrived in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t receive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the airport, as he has previously done with many leaders including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t join him is all surprising even when Prime Minister Trudeau visited Gujarat. This is unusual because the Indian Prime Minister has set a trend that he always accompanies head of the state when they visit his home state.

Even Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath did not show up, let alone accompany Prime Minister Trudeau to the Taj. However, during Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 15 January visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra, Yogi Adityanath had received Netanyahu and his wife and shown them around as well as hosted a lunch for them. For first three days, none from the executive or the elected representative held any meeting with the delegation.

Media in India is trying to spread a message that the cold treatment given by Prime Minister could be because two of the four Sikh members of Trudeau’s cabinet – Harjit Sajjan and Amarjeet Sohi – support the Khalistan movement. However, had that been the case his visit to Punjab would have got a similar response.  However, the Punjab Government led by Captain Amarinder Singh rolled out a red carpet during his stay at Amritsar and even the two leaders held some fruitful discussions.

Thus putting an end to those criticisms that that Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit was devoid of any warmth.  Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh, for instance who met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau setting aside his earlier prejudice that he exhibited during the visit of Defence Minister Harjeet Singh Sajjan.

In recent months, Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) in Canada, the United States and Australia have banned Indian officials from visiting gurudwaras and the moment started with Gurudwaras here in Toronto. Could that be the reason for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not accord one of the warmest welcomes that he is known to provide?  Or the use by Canada’s parliament of the term genocide to describe mass killings of Sikhs in India in 1984 has left the Indian Prime Minister disturbed?  However, more than Prime Minister Modi, this could have left the Congress party in troubled waters, but that was also not the case as Amarinder Singh hails from the same party.

The lukewarm welcome to Prime Minister Trudeau can have its political ramifications too. Will it hamper the significant 2015 deal, in which Canada agreed to supply 3,000 metric tons of Uranium to power India’s atomic reactors?

Somewhere Prime Minister Modi has not taken the issue of non allowing entry of Indian officials to Gurudwaras and the statement on Genocide too lightly. Prime Minister Modi however has failed to understand that Canada cannot curtail the right of freedom of speech and expression of its citizen.

Two nations perhaps failed to resolve the matter before Prime Minister boarded the flight from Canada and not welcoming Prime Minister Trudeau could be a tactical decision to put pressure on him. With Prime Minister Modi preferring to meet him at the far end of the tour has conveyed a lot about the myopic approach of Prime Minister Modi.

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