Ex-Navy chief Adm Verma to be envoy to Canada

Former Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma will be the country`s next high commissioner to Canada.

New Delhi: Former Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma will be the country`s next high commissioner to Canada.

Authoritative sources told India Strategic that his appointment has been cleared at the highest levels and that the External Affairs Ministry would shortly be sending a proposal to its Canadian counterpart to seek its concurrence. Once that comes, Admiral Verma would leave for Ottawa to immediately take over his new assignment, as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is due to visit India in the near future.

The concurrence is expressed in what is known in diplomatic jargon as an agreement, pronounced agreema. Exceptions notwithstanding, the procedure of sending a proposal and seeking concurrence is a formality.

There is no high commissioner in place in Ottawa at the moment. The last envoy, Shashishekhar M Gavai, retired from the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) at the end of August 2012, as did Admiral Verma from the Indian Navy.

Two service officers in the past, General JN Chaudhuri (July 1966-August 69) and General TN Raina (February 1979-May 1980), have served in Ottawa after retiring as Army chief.

Admiral Verma was last in Canada in May at the invitation of the Canadian Chief of Defence Staff, General Walter Natynczyk. He has played a key role in the modernisation of the Indian Navy ever since he was Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff (Policy & Plans) and also in naval diplomacy.

After the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself called for files on the Navy`s modernisation plans and in January 2009, most of them were cleared in one shot.

Despite the delays in the construction and commissioning of ships -- the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) at Cochin and some others at Mazagon Dock Ltd. and elsewhere -- the Navy is on a steady path to acquire at least five ships every year for the next 10 years, a commendable pace by any standard.

Admiral Verma should be back in South Block within the next few days - albeit a few rooms away from the prestigious offices he occupied - for briefings from officials of the external affairs ministry and to go through classified and unclassified files on India-Canada relations.

Canada is important for India because of its gas and nuclear technology and resources, for which agreements are in place.

Interestingly, in May 1974, 10 days after India`s nuclear test, Canada was the first country to break nuclear ties with India, a development then reported by this writer.