New Delhi– India and Canada on Friday resolved to combat terrorism and violent extremism in all forms and manifestations and agreed that no country should allow its territory to be used for such activities, an agreement that came during the weeklong visit by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that was marked by controversies over the perceived softness of Canada towards Khalistani separatists on its soil.
The two countries also signed a framework for cooperation in which they named Sikh extremist groups Babbar Khalsa International and International Sikh Youth Federation along with terror groups such as Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed and committed themselves to work together to neutralise their threats.
After one-on-one and delegation-level talks and with Trudeau by his side, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there is no place for misuse of religion for political and divisive purposes.
“Terrorism and extremism are threats to our democratic and pluralistic societies,” Modi told the media along with Trudeau following one-on-one and delegation-level talks between between the two countries here.
“It is very important for us to come together to fight these forces,” he said. “There should be no space for those who misuse religion for political purposes and divisive politics.”
He said those who challenge the sovereignty, unity and integrity of the two countries will not be tolerated.
Modi’s candid remarks came during the last leg of Trudeau’s week-long visit, which was earlier marked by a certain cold attitude from New Delhi towards the visiting dignitary because of Canada’s perceived support to Khalistani elements.
In a major embarrassment to Trudeau, on Thursday his country’s High Commission here had to rescind an invitation to a convicted Khalistani separatist, Jaspal Atwal, for a reception that was hosted in honour of Trudeau.
After Trudeau’s arrival on Saturday, it was only on Thursday evening that Modi tweeted his welcome message before greeting the visiting dignitary with a warm hug ahead of the ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday.
In his remarks, Trudeau avoided any reference to separatists or terrorism. “We share respect for democratic traditions and pluralism,” he said adding the two leaders discussed ways to strengthen people-to-people ties between the two countries.
In a joint statement issued after the talks, the two countries pledged to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations while declaring that no country should allow its territory to be used for terrorist and violent extremist activities.
“Recognising that terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation to violence present acute challenges to global peace, stability and prosperity, the leaders resolved to combat terrorism and violent extremism in all their forms and manifestations,” the joint statement said.
“They called for bringing terrorists to justice and holding accountable state sponsors of terrorism, including cross-border terrorism. They further emphasised that no country should allow its territory to be used for terrorist and violent extremist activities.”
Modi and Trudeau also welcomed the agreement on a bilateral Framework for Cooperation on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism that was signed between the two countries.
The Framework recognised the urgent imperative to disrupt recruitment, terrorist movements and the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, address the threat posed by cross-border and state-sponsored terrorism, stop sources of terrorist financing, dismantle terrorist infrastructure and prevent supply of arms to terrorists and counter violent extremism and radicalisation to violence.
The two sides emphasised the need to deny operating space to terrorist and violent extremist groups.
Modi said that during Friday’s talks, both sides also discussed means to further deepen economic relations.
“We have asked our negotiators to double their efforts to finalise the Bilateral Investment and Promotion Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement,” he said.
Bilateral trade between India and Canada stood at a C$8.02 billion (around $6 billion), which does not reflect the true potential.
Following the talks, the two sides signed a joint declaration of intent for cooperation in the field of ICT and electronics, terms of reference for the India-Canada ministerial energy dialogue, and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) for cooperation in the areas of sports, intellectual property rights (IPRs), higher education, and science, technology and innovation.
Stating that there are over 120,000 Indian students in Canada, Modi said that the renewal of the MoU on higher education would benefit students and teachers in both countries.
He also called for increased exchange of skilled professionals and said that there are immense possibilities in the technology partnership.
Describing Canada as an energy superpower, the Prime Minister said the North American country can help India meet its increasing energy needs.
“Today we decided to expand our energy dialogue and chalk out the future of our energy partnership,” he said.
Stating that regional and global issues also came up for discussion, Modi said that the two sides assessed the situation in Afghanistan, the challenges of cross-border terrorism it faces, and the efforts being undertaken for a secure, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.
“We share similar views on marine transport and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region, the threat to the two Koreas from North Korea’s proliferation efforts, and restoration of the freedom of democratic institutions in the Maldives,” he stated.
With Canada being home to around 1.2 million people of Indian origin, Modi said that people-to-people contacts formed an important foundation for the strategic partnership between the two countries.
“We are committed to maintaining friendship and amity with the Indian community in Canada and seek their active participation in India’s progress and development,” he said.
On his part, Trudeau said that both India and Canada share a set of values that make them natural allies.
“As Canada looks to diversify its own economy and looks for new opportunities to do business beyond its boundaries, India is a natural partner and trusted friend for commercial cooperation,” he said.
He recalled that earlier this week he had announced $1 billion in two-way investment that will create 5,800 jobs in Canada.
Modi and Trudeau also expressed “strong concern” over the prevailing security situation in Afghanistan and the recent political developments in the Maldives and their implications for free society.
On the economic side, both leaders agreed to realise the full potential of bilateral trade and investment and both sides will renew efforts to expand and diversify bilateral economic and commercial relations.
“They will also intensify negotiations to finalise a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and a Bilateral Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement,” the statement said. (IANS)