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  • Conflicting Visions: Canada and India in the Cold War World, 1946-76 by Ryan M. Touhey
  • Seema Sohi
Conflicting Visions: Canada and India in the Cold War World, 1946-76, by Ryan M. Touhey. Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 2015. 320 pp. $95.00 Cdn (cloth), $34.95 Cdn (paper).

Ryan Touhey's Conflicting Visions is a deeply researched analysis of the diplomatic relations between Canada and India during the Cold War. Focusing on the years between 1946 and 1976, Touhey's work seeks to fill a void in Canadian diplomatic historiography by writing the first substantial history of the bilateral relationship and by tracing Canadian foreign policy and its corresponding visions and perceptions of India. The relationship between Canada and India was shaped by a series of challenges pertaining to decolonization, non-alignment, and non-proliferation in the Cold War world. While this relationship was Canada's first major incursion into the decolonizing world and its first nuclear export market, Canada's diplomatic relationship with India, as Touhey writes, has received little attention by scholars of Canada's foreign policy.

Touhey's book focuses on three eras that he sees as distinct moments in the Canadian-Indian relationship. The first, from 1947-55, was marked by a close working relationship between the two countries. As Touhey demonstrates, in the years immediately following India's emergence on the world stage as an independent nation-state, Canada sought to negotiate the division between the West and India and did so, in part, by claiming that the two countries had a "special relationship." Canadian officials, particularly Lester Pearson and Escott Reid, saw Canada as a "bridge" between [End Page 411] India and the West and believed that Canada occupied a unique position in working with India to insure that it would not succumb to communism. In comparison, Washington thought India's policy of non-alignment na¨ıve and baffling; Nehru and his colleagues believed that the United States exaggerated the Soviet threat to world peace and ignored more serious problems in world affairs, particularly colonialism and the plight of Asian and African peoples and rising nationalism across the decolonizing world. Canadian officials felt they could play an important role in working to avoid a serious rift between New Delhi and the West and thereby positively influence Indian foreign policy. These feelings of goodwill would sow the seeds of the Colombo Plan — the first Canadian foray into development assistance — intended to prevent India from succumbing to communism — and over the next thirty years, India would become the largest recipient of Canadian aid.

The second era Touhey analyzes is between 1955 and 1968, when there arose a struggle between those who were proponents of the bridge vision and those who were its critics. The opinions and policies of the latter group came to be shaped by misgivings about Indian foreign policy, particularly what they saw as India's critical views on the West. Touhey traces the gradual shifts in this diplomatic relationship as it became shaped by increasing friction due, in part, to India's divergent views on policy in Southeast Asia.

The third and final era Touhey examines was between 1968 and 1976, when Canadian officials revisited the merits of reengaging South Asia. As Touhey demonstrates, this bilateral relationship effectively ended in May 1974 when India detonated a nuclear device that used plutonium extracted from a donated Canadian reactor intended strictly for peaceful purposes. India's actions led to years of frustration, resentment, and grievances toward India that have only began to ease in the last decade, as the two countries have sought to reengage with each other once again.

Each chapter of the book examines the "conflicting visions" that Canadian officials expressed regarding India's place in Canadian foreign policy and considers how these visions and the bilateral relationship itself changed over time. Ultimately, as Touhey argues, neither country was able to develop a foundation for a cooperative bilateral relationship because of the conflicting visions and expectations that each had of the other. While Canadian officials expected India to make policy decisions amenable to Ottawa and its North Atlantic allies, India's unwillingness to capitulate to a Western-led...


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pp. 411-413
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