In 1974, India shocked the world by detonating a nuclear device. In the diplomatic controversy that ensued, the Canadian government expressed outrage that India had extracted plutonium from a Canadian reactor donated only for peaceful purposes. In the aftermath, relations between the two nations cooled considerably. As Conflicting Visions reveals, Canada and India’s relationship was turbulent long before the first bomb blast. Canada’s expectations of how the former British colony would behave following its independence in 1947 led to a series of misperceptions and miscommunications that strained bilateral relations for decades.
Ryan Touhey is an associate professor of history at St. Jerome’s University (University of Waterloo), where he teaches courses on the history of Canadian foreign relations, Canadian political history, and modern South Asia. Focusing on post-1939 Canadian foreign relations, his current research examines Canadian efforts to develop public diplomacy programs in the early Cold War. He has published on Canada's foreign relations with South Asia in International Journal, the Canadian Historical Review, and the Canadian International Council. He has been a frequent commentator on Canada-India relations on Radio Canada International, in the Globe and Mail, and in India Abroad.
This is a much-needed book in the field of Canada’s (and India’s) bilateral relations, and is based on a painstaking search through the vast (and often nonlinear) RG25 file group at the National Archives in Ottawa...[and it is] an excellent study of diplomatic access to the top, the role of ministers of external affairs (both countries used similar names for this activity), and the role of the powerful unelected officials who guarded the doors and crafted the language of policies.
[Ryan Touhey’s] book is indeed thorough. It provides a well-researched and documented history of diplomacy and all its attendant personalities, misunderstandings, and foibles, and how these qualities affected the nature of the interactions between the governments of Canada and India. Because this is a diplomatic history, it focuses exclusively on the elite: prime ministers, cabinets, high-ranking diplomats, and their personnel. Touhey’s main argument concerns the so-called “bridge thesis”...Touhey provides an excellent history of the bridge thesis, showing step-by-step how it was formulated and put into action. He also reveals where it started to go awry until finally it was acknowledged to be a myth.
[Touhey’s] research deftly combines well-known events in the [Canada–India] bilateral history with the personal reflections of some of its most proficient members. The narrative is reminiscent of a classic story arc featuring two star-crossed lovers who, despite their best intentions, are beset by a series of mistaken expectations and miscommunications, and are ultimately separated … [This book] will stand as one of the finest studies within the Canadian foreign policy literature of Canada’s bilateral relations.
Conflicting Visions [is] perhaps the best of [a] superb new crop of historical work on Canada’s international relations ... Like other recent books on Canadian international history published by UBC Press, Conflicting Visions draws on a source base that is not just multi-archival but international. The result is an exemplary work of history.