Evidence of meeting #37 for National Defence in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was countries.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Jean-François Lafleur
  • James Appathurai  Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Earlier you were talking about how we're capitalizing on the niches or areas of specialization of different countries. What is seen as Canada's area of specialization?

11:35 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

This is my personal view, so I want to keep it as a personal view, but I don't think Canada is one of the countries to which the alliance is looking to play a role like the Czechs of specializing in one particular area. Because of our geography and our history, Canada has always had very broad spectrum capabilities. We're always going to have broad spectrum capabilities because we have a lot of water and a lot of air space and a lot of land to protect.

This country has always built forces for expeditionary operations, so we can do that in a way that newer NATO members cannot because they have built their forces for territorial defence or they're landlocked or whatever.

All of these reasons, the broad range of capabilities, which your colleague just described, are actually a strength of Canada that NATO would welcome.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

I see that you're the special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia. Would the membership of the Republic of Georgia augment or detract from the strategic concept at this time?

11:35 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

The NATO allies have been very clear, because at the same time they were agreeing to the strategic concept, they also agreed to a communiqué that restated the decision of Bucharest that Georgia would become a NATO member. That didn't have any caveats to it, except that they would have to meet NATO standards. That's what they're doing and working to do.

I think there's no ambiguity between these two concepts. Of course, Georgia has to meet those standards. I don't want to be naive. Russia looks very suspiciously at this process, and their relations with us have this constant burr under the saddle, which is Georgia. It is one of the very few points—if not the only point—of real principle where NATO and Russia constantly disagree and consistently disagree. They do not want to see Georgia in NATO. We say they're a democracy and they meet the standards. They are a democracy, they have a right to join, and they've taken the decision that they will join.

I can't say that it's not a complication. It is a complication. Any move by Georgia to try to get closer to NATO is of real political importance to everybody because of how Russia might react. The principal point remains firm, and I'm quite sure it will be reaffirmed again at the Chicago Summit.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

So there has been no movement in their designation from aspirant country to one at the next level.

11:35 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

There has been no movement in either direction, downwards or upwards. But because of their reform, they have moved closer to NATO. The secretary general has made that statement as a clear statement of policy. But their final decision on whether or not they will join has already been made. No country has had that before. They are the only country in the history of NATO that has gotten the commitment, “You will be in.”

May 1st, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

What are the implications going forward for Canada as a result of the Lisbon 2010 strategic concept paper? Does this change the way Canada approaches NATO-led missions like Afghanistan or Libya?

11:35 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

I think that's probably more of a question for the Canadian government than for me. Canada has always been—and I don't say this because I am a Canadian or an international civil servant—an active, staunch member of NATO. They are an active staunch member of NATO now the way they were two years ago and three years ago.

I don't necessarily see that this has affected Canada's commitment one way or another. Canada is a very committed country.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you. Time has expired.

Mr. McKay, you have the last set of the seven minutes.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you for coming this morning.

I've been reading a book on the west's relationships with the Middle East, then known as the Orient. I'm not going to name the book or the author because it's exceedingly boring and I don't want to be on the public record as depressing sales for this book. One of the chapters is devoted to Napoleon's invasion of Egypt. What struck me about that chapter was the extraordinary preparation Napoleon went through when he decided to invade Egypt. Obviously the military preparation was extreme, but one thing he and his people did, which I thought made the invasion a success, even after the British kicked him out and they were still there, was to make an effort to understand the Muslims, to understand Islam, to understand their thinking.

For the foreseeable future, the various theatres of conflict that we can imagine are going to involve Islam in some way or another. If you just go through your list of countries, virtually every one of them is an Islamic country.

I wonder what you could tell us with respect to how NATO is involving itself with Islam as a general proposition, but also with regard to specific themes and variations on Islamic culture, Islamic religion, Sunni, Shia, and all this other stuff. If Napoleon got it 200 years ago, surely we should get it now. I just wonder what you can tell us about NATO's engagement.

11:40 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

That's an extremely relevant question, and one that we discuss extensively.

The first point to make is that one of NATO's great strengths is that Turkey is a very powerful and prominent member. It plays a number of roles. One, of course, is it can and does provide exactly the kind of knowledge and expertise that you expressed. I think it is true, and I can even say it on the record, that the knowledge of and expertise in NATO on the Arab world in particular and the Muslim world more widely is certainly not what it should be.

I have a good experienced team of—I can't say Arab Canadians—Arab “NATOans”, Arabs, natives of NATO countries who are also from Arab countries, who work on Middle East and North Africa issues. Without them we would be a little bit lost.

Turkey plays a very important role to provide knowledge. It also plays an important role as a bridge to those countries.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Literally and figuratively?

11:40 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

Literally and figuratively. In Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in the Arab world increasingly, as I'm quite sure you're aware, Turkey has had a mixed, let's say, image in the Arab world. That image is becoming ever stronger.

When Prime Minister Erdogan goes to the Arab world, there are tens of thousands of people in the streets cheering him, which is a new thing. We have a natural ability because of Turkey to bridge to that region, but we do need to keep on working on expertise, knowledge, and understanding.

The Arab world is not monolithic. You quite correctly hit on one of the key divisions, which is the Shiite-Sunni division. I work quite extensively now in the Arab world because of this job I have, and I'm constantly learning.

It is also the case that many nations in NATO, such as France and the United Kingdom, have had long experience in the Arab world.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

But a mixed history, a colonial history, and that's a big problem.

11:45 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

It can be a problem, but it also brings with it decades, if not a century plus, of expertise. In the British foreign ministry there is someone, a friend of mine, whose official title is “Chief Arabist”, because this guy knows everything and he has been everywhere. They devote a lot of attention to it.