File photo of Ajay Bisaria. Photograph:( WION )
Ajay Bisaria said India and Canada are collaborating at multiple levels.
India has shared with Canada "Bhilwara model" of containing the COVID-19 pandemic and will be sending five million tablets of hydroxychloroquine to the North American country.
Speaking exclusively to WION's principle diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, India's high commissioner to Canada Ajay Bisaria said India and Canada are collaborating at multiple levels to deal with the crisis and Indian mission is reaching out to the Indian community from Nova Scotia to Vancouver, through the use of technology. Ajay Birasria has written to Canadian provinces, universities to help stranded Indian students even as Indian diaspora has opened doors to help out to them.
WION: How are India and Canada collaborating over COVID crisis?
Ajay Bisaria: India and Canada are collaborating at multiple levels in pandemic times. Our prime ministers have been part of the global conversation in the G20 context. Our foreign ministers have been in touch. Commerce ministers of both countries have had several chats on operational details of trade exchanges. The supply chains from India remain intact and dependable. For instance, we have just cleared a shipment of 5 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine to Canada. We are exchanging knowledge on policy responses. We have shared with Canada the ‘Bhilwara model’ of containing the pandemic. We are in turn studying the Canada model of designing regulations for re-engineering auto sector production lines for health manufacture. I have discussed such issues with Canadian ministers, most recently with Minister for Innovation Navdeep Bains.
India has facilitated multiple evacuation flights to send Canadian citizens home. I have begun teleconferencing with business leaders. We are also looking at business level responses to the current crisis. And we are preparing for business in the new normal of post-pandemic times. In short, we have reacted the way strategic partners should in a crisis. By remaining in close touch, by helping out where possible, by planning ahead.
WION: How is the Indian mission taking care of the Indians in Canada?
Ajay Bisaria: We have over 700000 Indian passport holders in Canada today. This includes a contingent of over 225000 students. Naturally, many of these citizens are keen to get back to India but can’t given the global lockdown. These are extraordinary times, they call for discipline and patience. India is in strict lockdown. In Canada too, the quarantine act has been invoked and most provinces are in states of a medical emergency. There are no flights operating to India till 3 May. Our advice to Indians here is to stay where they are, to avoid all travel and to follow the advisories and instructions of the Canadian authorities.
WION: How is the NRI community helping in the mission's efforts?
Ajay Bisaria: We are hugely proud of the success of the Indian community in Canada. The strength of this diaspora goes beyond its size of 1.6 million. Indo-Canadians occupy unique leadership positions in politics and business and they have shown tremendous generosity in assisting people in distress at this time. Several temples, gurudwaras, NGOs, and even cultural organizations being run by people of Indian origin have come forward to provide food, shelter, medicines and other necessities to Indian students and other Indians stranded here.
Diaspora groups have set up helplines and are providing free advice to people ranging from availing emergency benefits to immigration and visa issues. We at the High Commission have tried to facilitate connections. We have conferred with students, as also community leaders, from Nova Scotia to Vancouver and tried to get a sense of their issues and concerns. I have also written to the leadership of provinces and universities explaining what our students need in these difficult times. Similarly, we are helping out Indians who find themselves stranded in Canada. Some of them have run out of medication and we are working with community doctors and pharmacies to prescribe medicines. Some community members have offered boarding at hotels owned by them.
WION: Any innovate way to reach out to the Indian community?
Ajay Bisaria: We are harnessing all technology to connect and reach out. At the High Commission, we have established an automated help-desk that provides answers and updated information to the most common issues that people here have. It converses in English and Hindi and will soon add Punjabi. Our Mission in Ottawa and our Consulates in Toronto and Vancouver have buzzing helplines and a heavy e-mail traffic of queries which are patiently answered. We are committed to creating a home away from home for Indian nationals in these troubled times. With technology, it’s easier to remain connected even when we’re isolated