Recognising that the Indo-Pacific region will play a “significant and profound” role in its future, Canada released an Indo-Pacific strategy which termed China an “increasingly disruptive” global power. Calling India a “crucial partner”, the strategy said Canada will seek new opportunities to partner and engage in dialogue with India in areas of common interest and values, including security, and the promotion of democracy, pluralism and human rights.
Based on five inter-connected strategic objectives, it announced an ambitious plan, beginning with an investment of almost $2.3 billion over the next five years. Canada is the latest among several Western countries which have recently outlined Indo-Pacific strategy.
“China is looking to shape the international order into a more permissive environment for interests and values that increasingly depart from ours,” the strategy said. “In areas of profound disagreement, we will challenge China, including when it engages in coercive behaviour — economic or otherwise — ignores human rights obligations or undermines our national security interests and those of partners in the region.”
As China becomes more assertive and grows in influence, Canada is stepping up as a reliable partner in the region to promote security and stability across the region and at home, the strategy said. “Canada will increase our military engagement and intelligence capacity as a means of mitigating coercive behaviour and threats to regional security,” it adds.
India crucial partner
India’s growing strategic, economic and demographic importance in the Indo-Pacific makes it a critical partner in Canada’s pursuit of its objectives under this strategy, while also noting that there are shared values and pluralism, among others. In line with this, the strategy said it will grow economic ties, including through deeper trade and investment, as well as cooperate on building resilient supply chains. “Seek to expand market access by concluding an Early Progress Trade Agreement [EPTA] as a step toward a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement,” it stated.
On people-to-people connect, the strategy said it would invest in and connect people, including by “bolstering Canada’s visa-processing capacity in New Delhi and Chandigarh” as also support academic, educational, cultural, youth and research exchanges.
Other aspects include accelerating cooperation in the fight against climate change, deploying green technologies and sending enhanced Team Canada trade missions in priority sectors of mutual interest, such as renewable energy and clean technology.
“The future of the Indo-Pacific is our future; we have a role to play in shaping it. To do so, we need to be a true, reliable partner,” said Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly after releasing the strategy, adding that it sends a clear message to the region that Canada is here, and they “can trust we are here to stay”.
This whole-of-society strategy puts forward how Canada intends to actively work with allies and partners to shape the future of the region, in the midst of a generational global shift, the Canadian High Commission said in a statement on November 28.
The five objectives are promoting peace, resilience, and security; expanding trade, investment, and supply-chain resilience; investing in and connecting people; building a sustainable and green future and Canada as an active and engaged partner in the Indo-Pacific.
To advance Canada’s regional peace and security interests, it plans to invest over $720 million which includes $492.9 million to reinforce Canada’s Indo-Pacific naval presence and increase its military’s participation in regional military exercises as well as $47.3 million to launch a new multi-department initiative to help develop cyber security capacity in select regional partners.
To forge stronger people-to-people ties with the Indo-Pacific, Canada will contribute $261.7 million which includes $100 million in the Feminist International Assistance Policy development funding to support the Indo-Pacific. Also, there will be $74.6 million to enhance Canada’s visa processing capacity within its centralised network as well as in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Islamabad, and Manila.
Canada also committed $913.3 mn for a clean future, of which $750 million is to support sustainable infrastructure and $84.3 million to reinforce a healthy marine environment in the Indo-Pacific region, including enhanced measures against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Under the strategy, Canada also committed $143.3 million to strengthen its presence, visibility and influence in the region.