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Aditya Jha

Aditya Jha

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Canada-India Relations Deserve Sensible and Sensitive Diplomacy

Posted: 06/ 7/11 01:28 PM ET

The article in June 3, 2011 edition of the Toronto Star, "Visa from India -- Show us Your Fingerprint", has generated considerable reaction among the Indo-Canadian community and has resulted in media outlets soliciting responses from leading public policy organizations such as Canada India Foundation.

It is therefore necessary to put the news and if it is true, then put its implications into proper perspective.

The reality of the post-9/11 world (and shall we say, the post-26/11 world, from India's point of view) is that technology is going to play an increasingly prominent role in security matters, especially in transborder travel.

The implementation of new technology to ensure national security is bound to have impact on travellers, and not technology is going to be well received by the already beleaguered global traveller. Over the next decade, however, many of these technologies will be part of our working life.

It is in this context that we have to look at the Toronto Star article reporting that Canada will soon impose fingerprint requirements on Indian citizens applying to travel to Canada, ahead of imposing similar requirements on citizens from other countries, such as China and Mexico, not to mention European nations.

It is reassuring to see an immediate denial from the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (OMNI TV, June 3, South Asian News) that a list of countries chosen for biometrics implementation has not been made and that when made, it would be in a non-partisan manner.

Nonetheless, the federal government should act sensibly and with great sensitivity when dealing with issues such as fingerprinting at border points. Canada's relationship with India is just warming up and the Indo-Canadian population is playing an important role in strengthening ties.

Whatever technology Canada chooses to implement for border security should be part of a well thought out overall security strategy of how it will apply for people coming over to Canada from around the world and any appearance of singling out a strategically important nation such as India should be carefully avoided.

It is always tempting to project anecdotal incidents involving travellers from a particular nation into a national pattern, but sound diplomatic and bureaucratic practices should balance such temptations with larger strategic considerations. In the case of India, one such consideration is the projected growth of bilateral trade to $15 billion and further deepening of the relationship between two democratic nations of strategic and economic importance.

A perception that Indian travellers are being singled out for fingerprinting in contrast with those from other nations, would put a damper on that projection and create unnecessary distrust and irritation.

The current government's pronouncements and recent track record of engaging with India leads one to believe that the fingerprinting strategy rumor involving India is just that, a rumour.