Bilateral Pakistan-Canada Relations

Pakistan desires to maintain the tradition of bilateral engagement and wishes for long term & multi-domain enduring relationship with Canada. Canada pursues a broad range of interests in its bilateral relations with Pakistan, including people-to-people links, governance and democracy, human rights, climate change, development assistance, regional security and defense, transnational crime, and trade and investment. Since its day of inception, Pakistan enjoys cordial ties with Canada. Canada always welcomes diplomatic relations with the newly formed state. In January 1971, a visit by Prime Minister Trudeau helped to further strengthen the bilateral relations between the two states. The Canadian attitude toward Pakistan during the East Pakistan crisis was sympathetic. Canada and Pakistan are also members of the Commonwealth, the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process related to security in Afghanistan and the wider region, and the Malta Process on international child abduction. Canada encourages Pakistan to continue its efforts to address all its security challenges in compliance with the rule of law and respect for human rights. Canada believes that democracy is essential to a peaceful and prosperous future for Pakistanis and, to date, supports programs that help strengthen Pakistan’s democratic institutions. Canada welcomes an ongoing open dialogue with Pakistan on human rights, including women’s rights and minority religions, in a spirit of mutual respect.

In terms of economic relations, Canada has been strongly associated with Pakistan’s efforts for progress and development. After the US, Canada has provided the largest grant aid. A total of $ 157.5 million was promised for the Third Five Year Plan. Demonstrating his active participation in various projects that were built and completed with his funds. Canadian exports to Pakistan amounted to $ 669 million and goods from Pakistan amounted to $ 438 million. Canada is the 21st largest export partner of Pakistan, with bilateral trade exceeding $800.0 million in 2018. Pakistan’s major exports to Canada include rice, textile articles, cotton yarn, jewelry, etc. One of the major imported items, which constitutes over 45.6 percent of total imports from Canada, is rapeseed, locally known as canola. Canada is also the single largest exporter of edible oilseed to Pakistan. Canola is a prized seed here. It is crushed in Pakistan for oil as well as used in poultry feed. Other Canadian exports to Pakistan include pulses, chickpeas, and scrap metal. Most of Pakistan’s exports to Canada are commodities of textiles and textile articles, which in 2018 totaled $196.3 million accounting for more than 58.3 percent of Pakistan’s total exports to Canada. Pakistan’s top 20 commodities with the highest export potential to Canada are valued at $2.9 billion. Twelve of these belong to the category of textiles and textile articles, where most fall under the sub-category of knitted and woven apparel. Rice is amongst those commodities that are currently imported by Canada in low quantities but holds immense potential, a value which could exceed $289.2 million.

However, Canada’s defense ties with Pakistan have always been significantly smaller than that of the US, UK, or China. Canada has sustained military presence in Pakistan, beginning in 1949 when it joined the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). People-to-people links between Pakistan and Canada remain strong. More than 215,000 Canadians of Pakistani descent lives in Canada; Pakistan is Canada’s fifth-largest source of permanent residents. Opportunities for Canadian companies exist in education, information and communication technology, cleantech, energy, oil and gas, and the food and wood industries. Pakistan and Canada share more than 60 years of development cooperation. The priorities of the two-state international aid program are based on the priorities of Pakistan’s development and Canada’s comparative gains in line with the International Women’s Aid Policy. Canada’s development assistance to Pakistan includes several countries, partnerships, and a humanitarian program. The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives provides direct financial assistance for small projects to local NGOs and, in exceptional cases, international NGOs and government institutions.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the number of Muslims in Canada before 1986 was very small, with new immigrants to Canada now professing to be Muslims now making up about 18% of all immigrants, surpassing only Christians. In addition to changing Canadian religion, this influx of diversity also changed the culture of the developing Canadian nation. In terms of academic communication, Pakistan is a small but important country that is the source of international students studying at Canadian institutions from tertiary institutions. During the decade between 1998 and 2007, Pakistan roamed between the 10th and 16th major sources of foreign students to Canada. International students are significant in Canada’s post-secondary institutions, and the enrollment of foreign students accounts for about 25% of enrollment growth in the 2004/2005 academic year. Citizenship and Immigration Canada tracks international student resource statistics; however, it does not provide the total number of Pakistani student stocks in Canada as female student numbers were not large enough to be included in their annual report.

Tourism is an important feature of building relationships. Due to the large population of Pakistan in Canada, bilateral travel is essential for business communication, family communication, and the economic and cultural/social benefits of tourism. High Commissioner of Canada to Pakistan Wendy Gilmour says, “We maintain political relations; trade relations and people-to-people contacts as there are thousands of Canadians connected to Pakistan”. Punjabi is the fourth most spoken language in Canada. “We have people who have migrated from Pakistan, India, and the Sikh community on both sides speaking the language. The Punjabi-speaking community is a big part of the Canadian mosaic, “Our national dish is as much Palak paneer as French fries and cheese”.

Canada and Pakistan cooperate in diverse fields of commerce, education, humanitarian assistance, etc. One thing that both Canada and Pakistan are affected by is climate change. “Melting glaciers are increasing challenges for people living downstream. Canada is looking to help Pakistan cope with climate change with its green energy initiatives. The current Canadian government supports the stance of protecting the Muslim community in their state. Both states enjoy smooth ties for decades and are ambitious to strengthen these relations further. A reasonable Pakistan policy for Ottawa would encourage Pakistan to moderate its domestic and foreign policies, reduce defense expenditures and non-proliferation, promote trade and investment, and obtain access to Canadian official development assistance (ODA).

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About Hafiza Saba Ashraf 5 Articles
The author is Sub-Editor of The Asian Telegraph (TAT). She is an M.Phil Scholar at National Defence University Islamabad.