Indian High Commissioner to Canada Ajay Bisaria said that India and Canada are cooperating on all fronts amid the coronavirus crisis and added that an Indian shipment of 50 lakh tablets of hydroxychloroquine-HCQ would reach Canada soon.
In an interview with News18, Bisaria detailed the efforts taken by the Indian High Commission in Canada to ease the difficulties of stranded nationals. Edited Excerpts:
How are India and Canada cooperating during the coronavirus pandemic?
India and Canada are strategic partners. In the G20 context, too, they are partners. Even during Covid-19 crisis, the two countries are cooperating on all fronts. On 28 April, PM Modi had spoken to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. There was a detailed discussion on a range of issues. Foreign ministers and commerce ministers of the countries are also in touch. Negotiations are going on at the level of the High Commission as well. Between India and Canada, mainly three issues are being discussed.
First, the priority of both countries is to protect the health and welfare of their own citizens. We are helping Indian citizens based in Canada and we are receiving support from the Government of Canada. At the same time, we are helping the High Commission of Canada in evacuating Canadian citizens stranded in India.
The second issue is the protection of the global supply chain. India is the world's pharmacy today. And we are committed to maintaining that supply chain. For Canada, we have specifically permitted the shipment of 50 lakh tablets of hydroxychloroquine-HCQ, and it will reach Canada soon.
The third topic is the exchange of information regarding the coronavirus. We are continuously providing information about the Indian model to Canada and we are acquiring information about the Canadian model. Discussions, particularly about ventilators, vaccines, health devices, and research and treatment are going on.
Under the G20, the two countries are also contributing to global efforts.
How is the Embassy helping stranded Indians in Canada? Is any plan being drawn to rescue them?
Today, over 7 lakh Indian citizens are present in Canada. Out of this, more than 2 lakh are students, about whom we are particularly concerned. Apart from this, many tourists and Indian businesspersons are here. Many of these professionals are working here in Canada with work permits or permanent residency. A lot of them also want to return to India but are unable to go as both countries have imposed a lockdown and suspended international flights. We are in constant contact with all of them. The Indian High Commission in Ottawa, the Indian Consulate in Vancouver and Toronto is communicating with them. We have specially designed a ChatBot to address their concerns. It answers all questions immediately and is being used widely and has become popular. We are also in touch with the Indian community residing in Canada. We are working closely with them and I am very happy that this community has set out to serve Indians who are stranded.
Canada has a sizeable population of overseas Indians. How is your mission receiving support from them? How are Sikh and Punjabi communities extending help?
We are proud of the success of 1.6 million overseas Indians settled in Canada. This community is a part of Canadian society. Its presence is visible in leadership roles across Canada's political, economic and cultural spheres. Today, this Indian community has helped Indian citizens trapped in a difficult situation through their service. Doctors and pharmacies of Indian origin have offered their assistance through drugs and treatment. Many institutions have helped in the distribution of masks and gloves.
Special meals or essential items have been arranged for students in Indian restaurants. About 70,000 students have been provided help. Wherever needed, the accommodation has been provided in Indian hotels and homes. Tax and visa experts have organised webinars. Gurudwaras and temples, too, have played a special role. The Sikh community has always been at the forefront. Gurdwaras have organised langars, distributed large numbers of rations and essential commodities. Institutions like Punjabi Food Service, Seva Canada, Canada India Foundation provided all help to the Indian community.