There is an interesting opinion piece, by Vijay Sappini, in the Toronto Sun in which the author suggests that “As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads over the world, governments are struggling to grapple with the scale of the crisis and to get ahead of it when and where possible … [and] … A direct consequence of the crisis has been the disruption of global supply chains. The West needs to prepare for the new demands of pandemic planning in a post-COVID world … [and, he suggests] … The solution to the new crisis might lie in India.“
Now, it seems clear enough to me that the most fo the world wants to reconsider its reliance on Chinese based supply chains. President Trump wants to retreat into ‘FortressAmerica‘ and achieve real self-sufficiency. But, in my opinion, he’s wrong because global supply chains bring more “good” to more people than do national or regional industrial and economic ‘fortresses.’
Mr Sappini says that “In public statements … Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau and Narendra Modi … [discussed the] … potential for medical partnership. Two days ago, a consignment of five million hydroxychloroquine tablets arrived in Canada from India … [and he says that] … Seventy to 80% of the world’s drugs come from India and China .. [and] … India is the world’s largest supplier of generic drugs and a leading producer of vaccines in the world, serving about 50% of global vaccine demand.“
Canada, as a G7 nation, could do a lot to help India to compete more vigorously with China for a larger share of the global supply chain, but:
- Prime Minister Trudeau has already soured relations with the world’s greatest democracy after his disastrous, juvenile “Mister Dressup” tour in 2018. I think that Canada will need a new leader before relations can be improved with a rising great power;
- The USA is hell-bent on American self-sufficiency; President Trump does not want to swap China for India.
Vijay Sappini says, and I agree, fully, that “Canada cannot rely on countries like China to supply drugs, PPE, and other medical supplies. Indeed, China has opted to hoard much of these supplies, doling it out selectively in a transparent propaganda move to showcase its “generosity” and shift the narrative to one that falsely extols Beijing’s success in battling the virus … [and] … India is aware of the global dependence on its pharmaceutical industry and has done everything possible to keep it functioning while also ensuring the safety of its own citizens. Its pharmaceutical sector is already contemplating the opportunity of expanding its products to reduce future dependence on China and offer better value to its clients. This is an opportunity for Canada to get ahead of the world and partner with India.”
Mr Sappini talks about both past history and near term possibilities; they matter, but I believe that India is a key player in 21st-century geopolitics … grand strategy, in other words.
Let’s look, first, at China. China is rising, that’s undeniable and, by and large, that’snot a bad thing for the world. China’s ambitions, even Xi Jinping’s ambitions are to extend China’s strategic ‘reach‘ globally and to establish China as the unchallenged hegemon in East Asia:
Indis, with a HUGE and effective military, and a growing economy and very strong institutions, is an effective strategic barrier that impedes Chinese expansion to the West and South:
Now, as others, most recently Terry Glavin writing in the National Post, have pointed out, “Justin Trudeau’s government is afraid” of China. There are some valid reasons to be cautious, but Australia isn’t afraid, the Netherlands isn’t afraid, Sweden isn’t afraid. But, I’m not sure that fear is all that animates Canada. A couple of days ago, I speculated about a strong, pro-China lobby inside the Liberal Party. A few years ago, before Xi Jinping’s new policy became evident, I supported Jean Chrétien’s push for greater engagement, especially in trade, with China. But, Canada is already open to selling China all the food and most of the resources it wants, and China does not want any of our manufactured goods. What China appears to want, as far as I can see, is have greater control over some of our resource-based industries, to have easy access to our university-based R&D, and to have a share in our financial and insurance markets. A Chines company is, for example, buying a Nunavut gold mine. There’s nothing wrong with that, but China appears, to me to want to buy a whole client state in North America, and the influential business and Liberal lobby groups seem willing to sell Canada to them.
Right now, some Conservatives are taking an anti-China tone. I don’t think that’s helpful.
On the issues of Huawei and Canada’s 5G rollout, and on an international study of the origins and spread of the novel coronavirus I believe that Conservatives should say that Canada will stand with America and Australia and the EU and others. The Chinese ambassador will be undiplomatic, again, in his response, but by now we’re used to being scolded, aren’t we? Conservatives don’t need to support Donald Trump or Mike Pompeo; our own military and security experts have warned against us Huawei. Conservative leaders should, explicitly, warn Canadian telecom companies that if they do business with Huawei, now, even with the Canadian (Liberal) government’s blessing that they will risk being cut out of government business when, not if, a Conservative government takes over. The Chinese ambassador will not like that either.
On the bigger strategic issue, Conservatives and Canada should talk less about China and more about and directly to its neighbours. Canadian Conservatives should adopt a resoundingly pro-Australia, pro-India, pro-Malaysia, pro-Philippines, pro-Singapore and pro-Vietnam stance. It isn’t necessary to be (visibly) anti-China, it is better to be allied with those who are also sceptical about
China’s Xi Jinping’s policies. Canada and Conservatives should be “correct” and polite in addressing China but that is not the same as being a toady, which is what Justin Trudeau appears, to me, to be … I’m afraid that’s how Canada looks to the world, too: like a supplicant, begging at China’s door.
Conservatives also need to reach out to Taiwan and to the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Once again, it is not necessary to be anti-Chinese; but it is important to send up for freedom and democracy and the rule of law everywhere. Yet again, China will scold us and, very possibly, take action. Sometimes principles come with a price. It is beyond shameful when Canada’s foreign minister cannot even bring himself to say Taiwan when he is forced to thank them for donating protective masks to Canada.
Conservative policies should also be pro-trade, especially with (non-Chinese) Asian friends, and it should aggressively encourage increased immigration from India, Indonesia, Malaysia (two major and moderate Muslim nations) and the Philippines. Citizens of Hong Kong who want to immigrate to Canada should be accommodated as refugees.
But, better relations with India matter more than anything else. Justin Trudeau, who is an immature, not terribly bright, limousine liberal made a series of blunders ~ domestic and foreign ~ that led Prime Minister Modi and many Indian officials to
suspect conclude that the Trudeau Liberals are soft on the Sikh independence movement. We, Canadians, would certainly not be happy with a country that supported a violent Québec separatist movement, why are we surprised when India is annoyed when the Prime Minister of Canada celebrates Khalsa Day with known separatists and seems to pander to Sikh extremists in Canada. Conservative leaders must emulate Premier Jason Kenney who, back in 2012, in Toronto, when he felt that Sikh extremists were trying to exploit him for then own nefarious ends. Our Indian friends live in a vibrant democracy, just like us, they understand that politicians search for votes … but there have to be some limits.
The next Conservative leader must reach out to India. A Conservative foreign policy must make Asia at least as important as Europe and a Conservative leader must seek to use aid, trade and the Canadian military to “make friends and influence people” in Asia ~ with Australia, India and Singapore being the three most important actors there. Conservatives should embrace the notion of CANZUK and of CANZUK+ and even of a broader coalition including more Asian Commonwealth members … with India playing a leading rile.
India is already. moving. I see a report, in Bloomberg, that “India is seeking to lure U.S. businesses, including medical devices giant Abbott Laboratories, to relocate from China as President Donald Trump’s administration steps up efforts to blame Beijing for its role in the coronavirus pandemic … [and] … The government in April reached out to more than 1,000 companies in the U.S. and through overseas missions to offer incentives for manufacturers seeking to move out of China, according to Indian officials who asked not to be identified, citing rules on speaking with the media. India is prioritizing medical equipment suppliers, food processing units, textiles, leather and auto part makers among more than 550 products covered in the discussions, they said.“
India can help Canada to enjoy the many benefits of globalized supply chains without being subservient to China. Canada can help India to make its case for market access to the USA. It should be a mutually beneficial friendship … as it was for decades. Justin Trudeau failed, again, as prime minister. He put Liberal vote-buying ahead of Canadian strategy and now a Canadian policy imperative cannot be repaired until he is replaced.
Vijay Sappini is right, as far as he goes, but Indo-Canadian relations should be better and bigger than he imagines. India is a rising great power and Canada has vital strategic interests (the plural matters) in being India’s friend and ally. Many Canadian policies will need to change to get us back where we need to be … none of those policy changes can happen until Justin Trudeau is replaced. by a real, grown-up, Conservative leader.