New Canadian Media

Ufa (Russia) (IANS): India and Pakistan on Friday agreed to expedite the Mumbai terror attack trial. In a joint briefing after an hour-long meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif here, Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries said the two sides will “discuss all outstanding issues” and agreed on expediting […]

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New Delhi (IANS): Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the five ‘stans” of Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — next week will see energy security high on the agenda plus talks on the North-South connectivity corridor that will give India access to the resource-rich region and beyond.-- Delivered by Feed43 service

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined about 35,985 participants in the International Yoga Day event at Rajpath in New Delhi on June 21. The mass participation in the 35-minute session of 21 asanas created

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Wednesday, 17 June 2015 19:01

Now, An App to Follow Modi

New Delhi (IANS): In a move to improve his digital connect with the people, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday launched the ‘Narendra Modi Mobile App’ which will provide updates on his day-to-day activities and an opportunity to receive messages and emails directly from him. According to a release from the Prime Minister’s Office, the […]

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Friday, 05 June 2015 08:55

Akali Dal Seeks Sikh Votes in Canada

India’s oldest regional political party, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which rules Punjab, is sending special teams to Canada to woo votes from Sikhs who have left their homeland.

For the first time in its 95-year history, the party will send out a large contingent of senior leaders led by state cabinet ministers to woo the so-called Non-Resident Indians or NRIs to set up a structured organization and create a SAD base outside India.

"I am sending teams of my party in June-end to set up our organization in America, Canada and Europe," SAD president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal told the Times of India. 

"We will start a membership drive in these countries with each member getting a digital identity card."

The Akali Dal operates on the political position of far-right, with a political ideology of Sikhism. In other words, the basic claim of existence of the Shiromani Akali Dal is in catering to the demands of the Sikhs across Punjab and all around the world.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) will initially focus on the diaspora in the U.S., Canada and the EU. It will divide each of these regions into four zones and appoint a president in each zone. In the second phase they will head to Australia and New Zealand.

"We will create an entire organization with vice-presidents, general secretaries, working committee members, unit heads," Sukhbir added. "In October, I want to invite my presidents from around the world."

According to his plan over the next 45 days, three teams will visit various countries one after another. 

They will meet community leaders and also arrange some large gatherings. Each team will be led by a Cabinet minister. The teams will also identify people who are ideologically compatible so that they can be given important positions.

The Akali Dal operates on the political position of far-right, with a political ideology of Sikhism. In other words, the basic claim of existence of the Shiromani Akali Dal is in catering to the demands of the Sikhs across Punjab and all around the world.

Presently, the Akali Dal is in alliance with the BJP and forms a majority in the state, with 56 of its own members and 12 members of the BJP in the Punjab Legislative Assembly. The current Chief Minister of the state is Sukhbir Singh Badal’s father and party patron Prakash Singh Badal. 

The Akali Dal controls the various Sikh religious bodies and is highly revered among Sikhs in the country as well as across the world, for its efforts to safeguard religious, cultural and linguistic minorities. 

Following the Prime Minister's Lead

The move to woo the Sikh vote around the world comes at a time when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set new standards in engagement with NRIs during his various trips abroad, including Canada in the past year.

It also follows fears of heightened Sikh militant activities by supporters of the Khalistan movement, which is seeking an independent homeland of Punjab.

The SAD leadership feels that many Punjabi NRIs are tired of being seen as just moneybags that send dollars back home to keep their family and village happy.

In 2011, the Canadian Government estimated there to be at least 800,000 Sikhs living in Canada.

Observers said the SAD has a fairly tough task when seeking to secure the support of Sikhs overseas as many of the opinion makers in the diaspora were hardliners who had fled Punjab during the militancy era.

However, the SAD leadership feels that many Punjabi NRIs are tired of being seen as just moneybags that send dollars back home to keep their family and village happy. They now want the influence they wield over their community to translate into some kind of say in the affairs of Punjab.

"Have you ever noticed that all prime ministers from countries where there are Punjabis come and visit the Golden Temple?" Sukhbir told the Indian media recently. "Because they need votes there, they have to be seen at the Darbar Sahib. They have to be seen with us."

Virtually every Canadian politician makes a beeline for Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Punjab, for photo ops when in India.
Canada’s relationship with India’s central government in New Delhi and the state government of Punjab has been testy.

In August 2013, Sukhbir had cancelled his 10-day visit to Canada after the Canadian government said it would not provide immunity against any civil suit that may be filed against him there. 

Sikh groups in Canada had tried to file a case against him and Punjab police chief Sumedh Singh Saini for "crimes against humanity."

Meanwhile, seeking an independent Sikh country, “Ontario Gurdwaras Committee” (OGC) a Canadian umbrella Sikh organization passed a historic resolution in support of holding a referendum in the state of Punjab in the year 2020.

Since the military invasion of Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple, in June 1984 in the operation code named “Blue Star”, Canadian Sikhs have been supporting the movement for creation of “Khalistan”, a sovereign Sikh country. 

The OGC said that on May 3, a gathering of more than 150,000 Canadian Sikhs unanimously passed the Punjab Referendum Resolution during annual Khalsa Day parade in Toronto.

Chanting slogans in favour of Independent Sikh country, participants walked over 11 kilometres from Malton to Sikh Spiritual Centre Toronto carrying placards demanding referendum in the state of Punjab.


Published in Partnership with South Asian Post

 

Published in South Asia

New Delhi (IANS): Internet giant Google on Wednesday apologised “for any confusion or misunderstanding” caused after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s images started appearing in image search results for query on “Top 10 criminals in India”. “These results trouble us and are not reflective of the opinions of Google. Sometimes, the way images are described […]

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by Peter Sutherland in Toronto

After a hesitant start, Canada has picked up its game and appears committed to play a larger role in Asia, the world’s fastest growing economy and most dynamic region. This is clear from the recent visits by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

Although the two countries differ in scale and influence, the visits shared much in common. Both had a strong trade and investment orientation and both played to large, politically active Diasporas.

Narendra Modi’s visit was the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 42 years and was prompted in part by his appreciation for Canada’s early engagement in Gujarat during his tenure as Chief Minister.

It was equally motivated by the prospect of attracting Canadian investment in two priority sectors – infrastructure and manufacturing. Infrastructure is the biggest single bottleneck to faster economic growth, and significant expansion in manufacturing jobs is needed to absorb the 11-12 million young people entering the workforce every year.

The most tangible result of the visit was the signing of a $350 million agreement with Cameco for the long-term supply of uranium. This is the first concrete manifestation of the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement signed in 2013, which removed a major bilateral irritant, and is intended to encourage further collaboration in nuclear and other forms of energy.

Although there was commitment by both Prime Ministers to accelerate finalization of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership (CEPA) and Foreign Investment Protection (FIPPA) agreements, there was no significant movement and the opportunity for a breakthrough was missed.

The foreign leaders see the approximately 1.2 million Indo-Canadians and 800,000 Filipino-Canadians as bridge-builders between the two countries, an important source of remittances, investment and support back home.

The Philippine President’s visit was also a long time coming, the last being in 1997 when former President Fidel Ramos visited. The country is one of the top three fastest growing economies in Asia and, like India, Canada has designated it a trade priority.

Although a smaller market than India ($1.8 billion versus $6.3 billion in merchandise trade), the Philippines is a gateway to Southeast Asia and a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) group, which has a collective GDP over $2.3 trillion. It is also chairs the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) this year.

Similar to the Indian Prime Minister, President Aquino was keen to talk up Canadian investment in infrastructure and other sectors of the Philippine economy and had the opportunity to do so in Ottawa, and with a select group of CEOs in Toronto, as did Modi. There was also an unexpected agreement to begin exploratory discussions about a free trade agreement.

The Philippines has recently been designated as a focus country for Canada’s development assistance program and the visit saw the signing of a framework agreement outlining the specifics of this assistance. Canada’s bilateral assistance program in India ended in 2002.

Security was a common theme in both visits. Prominent on the agenda were the growing assertiveness of China in the region and ongoing terrorist threats in South and Southeast Asia. Canada has an annual Security Dialogue in place with India and signed an agreement for cooperation in security and defence with the Philippines in 2012.

Indian, Philippine Diasporas Underutilized Assets

The highlight, and some say the point of both visits was relations with the large Indian and Filipino Diasporas.

The foreign leaders see the approximately 1.2 million Indo-Canadians and 800,000 Filipino-Canadians as bridge-builders between the two countries, an important source of remittances, investment and support back home. With a federal election six months away, the timing of the visits was felicitous for the Harper government.

For companies, finding a Canadian who is familiar with local business practice in these markets and has ready access to a network of reliable contacts on the ground can be a substantial competitive advantage.

Apart from the political mileage to be gained by courting the two Diasporas, they are underutilized assets. Not in the sense of influencing an ethnic-oriented foreign policy, which is in nobody’s best interest, but as informed stakeholders who can contribute to the policy debate and sometimes play a back-channel role in its implementation.

For companies, finding a Canadian who is familiar with local business practice in these markets and has ready access to a network of reliable contacts on the ground can be a substantial competitive advantage.

Notwithstanding the agreements reached, documents signed and the photo-ops, the most important result of the two visits was reaffirmation that Canada is ready to play a larger role in Asia.

We have been slower than many to recognize and act on the gravitational shift from west to east. Sustained and active engagement is therefore needed to prove our bona fides and secure a place at the table.


Peter Sutherland is the Senior Business Advisor Asia at Aird & Berlis LLP and former Canadian High Commissioner to India and Ambassador to the Philippines.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

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  In a paper titled “Banalities Turned Viral: Narendra [...]

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Prime Minister Modi’s trip to China, Mongolia, and South Korea has succeeded in giving the message that the rise of Asia in this century is inevitable and that the 21st century is going to be remembered as Asia’s century. Even though the trends of western decline and the rise of the East are very clear, yet the West is not ready to accept the new realities and wants to desperately hold on to the present unipolar world order, which is based upon western domination and American hegemony. 

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By Siddharth Srivastava

Narendra Modi has completed one year in office and traveled to more locations around the world than most Indians would in a lifetime. A robust foreign policy no doubt is

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