The ABC of bilateral relations
BALBIR SAHNI believes that education is the most enduring bridge between two nations
Educationallinkages are most influential in fostering better understanding
between any two countries, says Professor Balbir Sahni,
Professor Emeritus of Economics, Concordia University.
“Education,” he says, “serves as the linchpin connecting trade
and technology” – an axiom he illustrates through the prism of
Canada-India relations with particular reference to the signing
of the bilateral Science and Technology agreement in 2005.
Though the Colombo Plan signalled the shift into higher gear
of relations between the two nations, academics suggest the
relationship actually began with the establishment of the
Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute over four decades ago.
Initially, the Institute focussed on promoting Indian studies
in Canada, without any reciprocity. In 1991, Sahni was asked by
India’s University Grants Commission to co-chair an expert
group for the development of Canadian Studies in India, and
that “set the ball rolling.”
The latest momentum, Sahni says, came when he became a
member of the committee to restructure India-Canada aca-
demic linkages. At this point, the Institute was restructured to
allow Indian academic institutions to become members of the
Shastri Institute. The membership has now swelled to over 80
where, before Shastri came along, membership was the sole
preserve of Canadian Universities.
“We have provoked enough interest to the extent that every
institution is now interested to see how to promote education
linkages — institutions like the ACCC (Association of
Community Colleges of Canada), CBIE (Canadian Bureau for
International Education), Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada,
Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce and the Canada-India
Business Council have begun to see merits in education linkages,” Sahni says.
Sahni is co-chair of the education committee of the Focus
India group of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs
and International Trade. He has successfully persuaded the
CIBC to organize two Synergy education conferences, that saw
the participation of dozens of Canadian educational institu-
tions and major organizations, besides evoking interest among
the business community.