NRI-help desk to woo Investment in Punjab

The Punjab State government in India has announced plans to set up a dedicated help desk facility for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), especially those residing in Canada, wanting to invest in their homeland.

The plans were announced as Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, prepares for a state visit to India from February 17 to 23 at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It also comes amidst increasing tensions between the Punjab political leadership and Canadian MPs, over the issue of Khalistan separatists operating in Canada, who want a separate homeland in Punjab.

“While trade and investment will be the top line on the agenda there are several issues that will be underlining the visit,” said an India-Canada geo-political analyst.

The most sensitive issue will be in Punjab, where a large segment of Canada’s Indo-Canadian population hail from.

“We don’t know at this time if Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh will be even invited to the event at the Golden Temple, which Trudeau will be visiting,” said the analyst.

Trudeau’s state visit includes stops in Agra, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, New Delhi and at Sikhism holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab.

Raveen Thukral, media adviser to the Punjab chief minister, said the state government still has not received any official word on Trudeau’s visit to India. “We have only seen media reports. As the CM has stated earlier, if the Canadian PM comes to India and does choose to visit Punjab, he’s most welcome to do so. And if there’s an official request for a meeting, the same will be treated on par with any such request from dignitaries at the same level,” he said.

Thukral said the Punjab government will use such opportunity to raise its concerns over hardline Sikhs and pro-Khalistani elements using the Canadian soil to instigate trouble in Punjab.

The Amarinder Singh government has over the years cold-shouldered visiting Canadian defence minister of Indian-origin Harjit Singh Sajjan as he travelled to various places in Punjab.

The CM refused to meet Sajjan, the first Sikh to be the defence minister of a Western country, accusing him and other ministers of Punjab origin in the government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of links to radical elements demanding a separate Sikh state of Khalistan.

Amarinder Singh has also been annoyed with the Canadian government since April last year when he was denied permission to visit Surrey, B.C , which has a sizeable Punjabi diaspora, in the run-up to the Punjab assembly elections. A radical organisation, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), had complained to the Canadian government against the visit.

More recently, Federal Canada NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and two Liberal Sikh cabinet ministers have joined a chorus of international complaint against the arrest of British Sikh activist Jagtar Singh Johal who has been accused of involvement in the killings of prominent Hindu figures.

“There are many issues involving Punjab and Canada that will play a role when Trudeau goes to India,” said the analyst.

“But thing to improve trade and investment ties between the Punjabi diaspora in Canada can help soothe the tensions,” he said.

The Canada-Punjab NRI-help desk initiative was announced after a recent meeting between the Punjab Chief Minister and members of Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce.

Singh directed Rakesh Verma, Secretary, Industries and Commerce–cum-CEO Invest Punjab, to explore the possibility of setting up a dedicated help desk to facilitate Indians settled abroad, especially those in Canada, who wanted to invest in Punjab.

“The Chief Minister called upon the visiting Canadian delegation to harness the positive industrial environment prevailing in the state, where his government had created a conducive environment for promoting industry. He assured them of his government’s complete support and cooperation in this regard,” stated an official release of the Punjab government.

The visiting Canadian delegation led by Kanwar Dhanjal said that, as the sons and daughters of the Indian soil, it was their moral duty to contribute something tangible for the growth and prosperity of Punjab.


Quick facts on the state visit to India


This state visit will build on a number of recent meetings held between Prime Minister Trudeau and Prime Minister Modi and ministers from both countries.

This will be the fourth meeting between Prime Minister Trudeau and Prime Minister Modi. The two leaders met previously in November 2017 during the East Asia Summit in Manila, Philippines; in July 2017 during the G20 in Hamburg, Germany; and in April 2016 during the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. Prime Minister Trudeau also met him in his capacity as Leader of the Liberal Party in Toronto in April 2015 during Prime Minister Modi’s official visit to Canada.

Since September 2016, there have been eleven ministerial visits to India, including, most recently, a trade mission led by Minister of International Trade François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, and Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, in November 2017.

Canada is home to a large Indian diaspora. Over one million – approximately 3.6 per cent – of Canadians are of Indian heritage. India is Canada’s second largest source of immigrants (approximately 40,000 in 2016).

In 2016, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and India totalled $8 billion. Bilateral trade in services reached $2.1 billion in the same year, an increase of 1.9 per cent over 2015.

Canada is a leading education destination for Indian students, and India is the second largest source of international students for Canada’s universities, colleges, and schools. Approximately 124,000 Indian students had a valid Canadian study permit in 2017, an increase of over 60 per cent compared to last year.

India is also a major source of international tourists for Canada, with 215,000 Indians visiting in 2016.

Leave a comment