Indian High Commissioner Sanjay Verma attends trade forum in Surrey amidst Khalistan protest


SURREY: Sanjay Kumar Verma, India’s High Commissioner to Canada, attended a trade forum in Surrey on Friday, March 1 hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade (SBOT) as the event’s keynote speaker.
The event drew criticism and outrage from Khalistan advocates who have been seeking answers from the Indian and Canadian governments on alleged India’s involvement in the killing of Surrey Gurdwara president Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
About 60 to 100 protesters gathered outside the hotel to boycott the event, waving yellow Khalistan flags and chanting slogans decrying the Indian diplomat’s attendance.
Some Sikh advocates said the Surrey Board of Trade inviting Verma was an insult to the Sikh community.
Anita Huberman, president and CEO of the SBOT, said she received a number of messages asking her to call off the event “but the event is only focused on economic opportunities,” she told CBC News.
Huberman said the event was intended to delve into opportunities for more economic engagement between India and Canada. In an interview with CBC News after the event, Verma said he would like to urge protesters to voice their concerns “with civility.” “I would say don’t disrupt the [India-Canada] relationship. It’s too large a relationship to be disrupted,” he told CBC.
During the event, Verma talked about the importance of trade ties between the two countries. Canada and India have longstanding bilateral relations built upon shared traditions of democracy, pluralism and interpersonal connections. Canada is home to one of the largest communities of Indian origin, with approximately 4% of Canadians being of Indian heritage (1.3 million people).
He said that Canada and India have close to $24.5 billion in bilateral trade and with India becoming an innovation hub there are more opportunities for Canada to explore in the tech sector. “We have 122,000 startups in India out of 102 122,000 about 880,000 are Tech startups out of 12 2,000 startups we have close to about 114 as unicorns with a combined value as 354 billion US dollars,” he said.
Speaking of India’s transformation over the past decade, he projected a growth rate of 7% in GDP till 2030, propelling India from the fifth to the fourth-largest economy.
Verma predicted a leap to a $5 trillion economy by 2026 and an ambitious $10 trillion by 2030. He envisioned India’s ascent to a $30 trillion economy by 2047, beckoning the country into the league of developed nations.