World

    Canada needs “foreign policy reset” amid worsening ties with major powers: Report

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    The Hawk
    September24/ 2023
    Last Updated:

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

    Ottawa [Canada]: Amid worsening bilateral ties with New Delhi in the wake of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegation of Indian involvement in the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, it is perhaps time for Canada to implement a ‘foreign policy reset’, shedding off its ‘middle-power approach’ and focussing more on ‘Indo-Pacific diplomacy’, Japan Times reported.
    Prime Minister Trudeau's allegation of an Indian role in the assassination of Khalistani leader Nijjar on Canadian soil, triggered a broader deterioration in relations between Ottawa and New Delhi, the report noted.

    Notably, a similar episode also led to a deteriorating trend in China-Canada relations, the report stated, adding that Michael Spavor, a businessman, and Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, were arrested by Beijing on espionage charges. The two were arrested following the detainment of Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou in December 2018 at the request of the United States, Japan Times reported.
    This was followed by serious accusations of Chinese electoral interference and threats against Canadian lawmaker Michael Chong, the report stated, adding that this translated into record-low favorability ratings of China in Canada and an atmosphere in which discussing anything about engagement between the two nations is “radioactive”.
    Canada's relations with Russia are also no better as Ottawa continues to provide deep support for Ukraine in the ongoing conflict, the Japan Times reported.

    Ottawa has manoeuvred itself inadvertently into the position where it has alienated the first and second most populated nations on the planet and Russia, a declining but disruptive power determined, to weaken the international rules-based order that Canada relies on for its peace and prosperity, the report stated.

    Another major concern for Canada is the possible return of Donald Trump and his ‘America First’ policies in the US in 2024, the Japan Times reported, adding that if Trump wins the presidency, Canada could be faced with a situation in which its most important economic, security and political partner may not be aligned with its goals, the second largest economy on the planet could become alienated and a country that is critical for Canada's Indo-Pacific strategic engagement may become estranged if relations between the two countries deteriorate.
    Further, according to the Japan Times report, Canada needs a “realistic, pragmatic, and interest-based approach” to how it's engaging in the Indo-Pacific and more broadly on the global stage. Ottawa can no longer pursue a foreign policy based on an outdated idea of a middle-power identity that is based on values-oriented diplomacy. This is a practice that evangelizes ideas and values that continue to be important for Canada's domestic audience but not so much for those in the Indo-Pacific region, it added.

    Canada also needs to strengthen partnerships with reliable allies and friends such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Singapore, in order to avoid mistakes of the past and to be an effective and dependable partner in the broader Indo-Pacific region, the report noted.
    These countries have similar democratic institutions, commitments to the rule of law, and commitments to transparency, and all share concerns about authoritarian overreach. They have also been more effective dialogue partners in many respects and have avoided many of the problems Canada has experienced, the Japan Times reported.

    Further, according to the report, Canada can learn from Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Singapore, a more pragmatic, interest-based approach on how to deal with the challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region.
    In policy terms, it means focusing on engagement in such important matters as infrastructure and connectivity and partaking in pragmatic trade agreements like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, including newer trade arrangements such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, all of which are non-binding and detached from values such as human rights and democracy promotion, yet are still inclusive, the report added.

    Canada can also learn from Japan's interactions with both China and India. In the case of China, Japan continues to engage through trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. It continues to build resilience into the relationship through the selective diversification of supply chains, such as ‘The Supply Chain Resilience Initiative’. Japan also continues to enhance its deterrence through initiatives such as the new National Security Strategy, which calls for the doubling of defence spending by 2027, the report noted further.
    By enhancing its deterrence capabilities, Japan aims to put itself in a position where its key areas of concern, such as the Taiwan issue, open sea lines of communication, the disputes in the South and East China seas, including the Senkaku Islands, don't get out of hand and remain stable, peaceful and are governed by international rules. It also hopes to maintain a viable security architecture with the support of the United States and its network of partners within the region, Japan Times reported.

    On the other hand, when it comes to India, Tokyo recognizes the nature of the South Asian democracy and also understands the challenges of its relationship with Pakistan. In addition, Japan proactively engages economically with India by investing in it as a counterweight against China’s economic might and by creating an environment where Japanese businesses can export goods to the Indian subcontinent, it stated.
    Tokyo is also looking for a partner that can help build bridges in the developing world to ensure that the United Nations functions in a more equitable way. Tokyo certainly does not ignore the many domestic challenges that India faces but it does refrain from evangelical criticisms of New Delhi. It also strives for diplomatic solidarity within the developing world and fostering shared norms in the Indo-Pacific region, according to Japan Times.
    Lastly, with regard to the United States, many countries within the region are worried about the potential re-election of Trump and what that might mean for alliance networks within the region, American commitments to conflicts such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and toward the dispute over Taiwan, the report stated.

    Rather than ignoring these issues or finding ways to deprioritize them, Japan is investing in the US relationship at the non-leadership level in terms of strengthening partnerships, business-to-business ties, university-to-university and think tank links. Japan’s rationale is that it can create a buffer against erratic leadership. These relationships can be used to provide an understanding of the island nation's key role within the region and to convey information about the critical issues that it and the world face, the Japan Times reported.
    Under former PM Shinzo Abe, it was seen that this form of diplomacy was critical in helping the US develop its own Indo-Pacific strategy, the report stated, adding that Abe was able to help convey to Trump the importance of some of the challenges within the region, including the dangers of North Korea's nuclear program, challenges associated with Xi Jinping’s China and the critical nature of the Taiwan Strait situation, including their importance to both the Japanese and global economy.
    In this situation, as Canada seeks to reset its Indo-Pacific diplomacy and ensure that it is not relegated to foreign policy backwaters, it is going to need partners like Japan, South Korea, Australia and Singapore to help facilitate improved relationships and ties with India, China and the United States.

    The main question, however, is whether or not Canada will step away from its value-laden, middle-power approach that creates challenges in terms of sustainable, meaningful and engaged diplomacy within the region or will it take on a more pragmatic and realistic interest-based approach befitting its global status, Japan Times reported.

    —ANI