PM heads to Germany for G-7 summit

PM heads to Germany for G-7 summit

Bilateral meet with Canadian PM is first since 2018, and after freeze in ties over farm protests

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will seek a reset in ties as they hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Germany on June 26-27, their first such meeting in four years, since Mr. Trudeau’s visit to India in 2018.

Relations had come under a strain in 2020, over Mr. Trudeau’s comments on the farmers’ protests in 2020, which India had protested with a stern demarche, and cancellation of official meetings, but New Delhi and Ottawa have been working together in a number of areas, particularly on a trade deal, in an effort to bring ties back on track.

The two leaders, who will be in the Bavarian resort of Schloss Elmau during the summit, where India is one of the special invitees, had met briefly during the G-20 summit in Rome in October 2021, and spoken on the telephone three times during the pandemic.

In his departure statement on Saturday, Mr. Modi, who will be in Germany on Sunday, and then go to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, said that he would make interventions during the special sessions on “topical issues such as environment, energy, climate, food security, health, counter-terrorism, gender equality and democracy.” “I look forward to meeting leaders of some of the participating G-7 and guest countries on the sidelines of the Summit,” he added.

Mr. Modi will fly into Munich on Sunday and attend an Indian diaspora community event, before being taken by helicopter to Schloss Elmau. A meeting with Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez and another with the Bavarian Minister-President Markus Thomas Theodor Söder are scheduled for Sunday as well.

When asked, the Canadian High Commission spokesperson confirmed that a bilateral meeting between Mr. Modi and Mr. Trudeau is being scheduled during the G-7 summit, possibly on Monday, and that “strengthening engagement and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and on climate, as well as deepening trade ties” is on the agenda for talks.

The MEA declined to comment on the meeting, saying Mr. Modi’s schedule is still being finalised. However, an official confirmed the summit, adding that apart from the economic agenda, with an interim trade agreement expected to be completed this year, the two leaders would discuss security and “mobility” issues, referring to problems in visas and immigration.

On Friday, the MEA announced that senior officials dealing with eight western countries, including the U.S. and Canada, had met with heads of missions in New Delhi to discuss how to streamline visas to Indian students who were facing long delays. Currently, 7,00,000 Indian applications for visas are pending with the Canadian government.

Sources said it is also likely that Mr. Trudeau would discuss India’s stand on the war in Ukraine, given that the Canadian Prime Minister, who made what he called stopping “Russia’s illegal actions” the focus of his discussions in Kigali, Rwanda on Saturday, where he attended the Commonwealth Summit.

In the run-up to the meeting between Mr. Modi and Mr.Trudeau, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra spoke with Marta Morgan, Canada’s Deputy Foreign Minister on June 17, and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also met with Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly on the sidelines of the Commonwealth meeting in Rwanda on June 23.

“Discussed prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific Region, Ukraine and global food security, and deepening cooperation between our two democracies,” Ms. Morgan said after the call with Mr. Kwatra.

The two leaders are expected to formally put aside their differences that erupted over Mr. Trudeau and comments by his Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament over the farmers’ protests in India. Canada had expressed deep “concern” about the treatment of protestors, and said that the country would “always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest”, and raised the issue with New Delhi.

In a sharply worded response on December 4, 2020, the India’s External Affairs Ministry called the statement an “unacceptable interference in our internal affairs” which would have a “seriously damaging impact” on ties. The same day, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar cancelled plans to attend a conference on COVID-19 pandemic responses hosted by Canada, and sources said no official meetings were granted in Delhi to Canadian officials for several months.

In February 2021, however, after India sent 5,00,000 doses of vaccines to Canada at Mr. Trudeau’s request, the relationship began to be revived. Real progress was seen after the visit of Trade Minister Mary Ng to Delhi for a Ministerial Dialogue on trade and investment in March with Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal this year, where the two sides agreed to re-launch talks for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) , with an interim Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) expected later this year.

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