Opinion: Canada and India must forge deeper partnerships to counter common threats

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At both ends of the Pacific, our nations have a common interest in contributing to the development and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region. Yet new threats stand in the way of realizing this potential

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The appointments of Anita Anand and Mélanie Joly as Ministers of National Defense and Foreign Affairs provide Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with an opportunity to define Canadian interests in the Indo-Pacific. Now is the time for Canada to strengthen its strategic partnership with India.

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The world has fractured along the fault lines of strategic competition. On the one hand, an authoritarian model supported by the Chinese Communist Party; and on the other, the common values ​​and interests of great democracies like India and Canada.

At both ends of the Pacific, our nations have a common interest in contributing to the development and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region. Our potential lies in animating trust-based supply chains underpinned by the rule of law, unlocking technological and scientific potential, and accelerating development. It depends on energy security and clean infrastructure, fighting poverty and educating billions of people.

Yet new threats stand in the way of realizing this potential. Six deserve special attention.

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First, our democracies are under attack from authoritarians who try to intimidate, misinform and polarize our people. Securing our democracies against foreign interference and state-sponsored disinformation operations is an urgent priority. We can solve this problem by reaching a mutual understanding of who is targeting us, how and by developing multilateral rapid response capabilities – modeled on those of Taiwan – to deal with them.

A second threat is the persistence of terrorism and extremism. Since the Air India terrorist attack in 1985, extremists in Khalistan have continued to draw oxygen from authoritarians abroad. Their logic is not rooted in facts around justice and reconciliation, and should be met by greater cooperation between the two democracies.

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A recent visit to Canada by members of India’s top counter-terrorism body, the National Investigation Agency, is a welcome step towards meaningful cooperation, but more needs to be done. We should take US-India counterterrorism cooperation, forged out of Pakistan’s proxy war in India, as an example, as it offers a solid and replicable model.

Internationally, emboldened Islamist extremists in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan present real risks and a common cause – Canada and India both have a stake in supporting Afghan women and girls, protecting Hindu minorities and Sikhs and to oppose ethnic persecution.

Afghans are on the brink of starvation this winter and urgently need support, without bolstering the Pakistan-backed Taliban who are subjugating them. Canada and India could work together to provide direct assistance to the Afghan people, creating a basis for greater international humanitarian cooperation.

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Third, these cross-border threats are aided by the emergence of the darknet. The darknet enables anonymous and illegal activity by rogue actors, from murderers to money launderers, and is a breeding ground for extremist propaganda, fundraising, and the illicit arms trade.

With an upsurge in illicit activities organized and disseminated on the darknet, including narcotics trafficking and terrorist propaganda, India needs partners to provide a comprehensive understanding of the technology and the criminal activities facilitated by it. CSIS and Canadian security agencies have successfully participated in multinational crackdown operations on darknet sites, an experience that is of considerable value to our security cooperation.

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Fourth, we need to focus more on cybersecurity. We are subject to increasing and repeated attacks by malicious state actors against critical infrastructure, including the financial sector, health systems and power grids. Ransomware attacks are growing rapidly, perpetrated by syndicates and supported by states. These nefarious activities directly undermine our security and prosperity, providing a two-way imperative to secure our cyberspace and digital infrastructure.

Fifthly, from the high seas to outer space, research on robotics and autonomous systems has created promising technologies, with huge potential for civil and military collaboration between India and Canada.

This intersection of technology and security defines the strategic fault line between the democratic and authoritarian worlds. New alliances, such as India-Israel-UAE-US, AUKUS and the Quad, are taking shape, while new financial partnerships, such as the Blue Dot Network, are being engaged. Canada and India are expected to launch a bilateral program that co-develops new technologies and scales them with new partners in the Indo-Pacific.

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Finally, on the line of real control separating the territories under Indian and Chinese control, in the Himalayas, the Indian army has been engaged for more than 18 months in a tense standoff against the People’s Liberation Army.

Indian troops have become acclimated to combat in low temperatures due to persistent raids on the borders of Pakistan and China. But China’s most recent aggression has resulted in a protracted stalemate and a new demand for a sustained winter presence from India.

Canada, with its history of military operations in the Arctic, the Baltic and Afghanistan, its experience with Arctic infrastructure and its continued need to extend Arctic sovereignty, can and should bring ambition to the Indian army. Through joint training exercises and Canadian defense equipment, Canada and India can become true security partners.

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Combined, these national security initiatives would constitute a renewed ambition between two great democracies, determined to defend the values ​​and interests that define them in the era to come. Canada’s status as a G7 and Pacific country requires strengthening its strategic partnership with India, a vibrant democracy and a rising global power. In a world of emboldened authoritarians and their designs, we must succeed.

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Richard Fadden was Canada’s national security adviser and head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Vikram Sood held the position of Head of India Research and Analytics Wing. Shuvaloy Majumdar is the former director of policy for Canada’s foreign ministers. Sameer Patil served in the National Security Council Secretariat in the Indian Prime Minister’s Office.

  1. Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar attends a press conference in Washington, DC on December 18, 2019. He will pay an official visit to Canada on December 19-20.

    India and Canada: A Changing Partnership

  2. The flags of India and Canada are flown during India Day celebrations in Fort McMurray on August 19, 2018. Canada must reduce its trade dependence on China and expand its ties with India, writes Erin O 'Toole.

    Erin O’Toole: Canada must deepen its ties with the world’s largest democracy, India

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