Joly’s Munich Meetings Hint at Thaw in Relations with India, China

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly met with Indian Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend. Neither side issued a readout, but Joly tweeted that the “frank discussion” centred on Canada-India relations. Jaishankar said the conversation “understandably focused on the present state of our bilateral ties.”

Back in New Delhi on Tuesday, Jaishankar warmly received Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and said India was looking forward to deepening co-operation with the province. Canadian exports to India hit C$5.1 billion in 2023, and Saskatchewan accounted for 26 per cent of that figure.

Indian media also reported that Canada was represented “at the highest levels” at a meeting of global intelligence chiefs this week in Delhi, an encouraging sign for Canada-India relations. Earlier this month, Global Affairs Canada’s (GAC) Assistant Deputy Minister for the Indo-Pacific told a House of Commons committee that “constructive engagement” continues between Ottawa and New Delhi and highlighted the efforts of a Canada-India working group on counterterrorism.

Canada-China channels remain open

Joly also met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Munich, the pair’s second chat in just five weeks. GAC’s unusually brief readout noted the two ministers discussed bilateral relations, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the “crisis in the Middle East.” Beijing’s readout stated that Canada and China are not rivals, “let alone enemies,” and Wang said he hoped Canada could establish a “correct understanding of China” and take a long-term view of bilateral relations.

APF Canada’s Vina Nadjibulla told Asia Watch that increasing ministerial-level interaction between Canada and China this year “signals a desire from both sides to have a more functional and constructive relationship.” She added there’s more emphasis on “possible areas for collaboration around global challenges and regional conflicts,” noting Canada’s recent call for China to do more to address the crisis in the Red Sea.

Taiwan, foreign interference stymie ‘rapprochement’

Last week’s readouts were more courteous than summaries from previous years and may hint at progress. But longstanding grievances continue to divide the two sides.

In January, China’s embassy in Ottawa took issue with GAC’s congratulatory message to Taiwanese voters following the island’s elections. And in an interview earlier this month, China’s ambassador to Canada objected to the Royal Canadian Navy’s transiting of the Taiwan Strait, saying it undermines Canada’s One China policy.

Canada’s foreign interference inquiry continues next month, with the Foreign Interference Commission expected to examine, among other topics, Beijing’s alleged interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, setting up a fraught stretch for Canada-China relations