Modi in Canada, to boost ties that had gone 'adrift'



 In the first visit by an Indian prime minister in 42 years, Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that ties with Canada had gone "adrift in the past" and that he hoped to make the visit "a springboard" to take the bilateral partnership in trade, investment and innovation to a new level.

Modi, who arrived to a rapturous welcome from Indian nationals at the airport, has a packed schedule. He was welcomed by Canadian Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, Indian High Commissioner Vishnu Prakash and a large number of Indo-Canadian leaders on his arrival here from Germany on the final leg of this three-nation visit.

In an Op-Ed piece in The Globe and Mail on Wednesday, Modi said: "After more than four decades, an Indian prime minister is visiting Ottawa."

"Our relationship has been adrift in the past. The potential of our partnership remained a promise on a distant shore. However, in recent years, India and Canada have begun rediscovering each other. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has led with great vision to chart a new, more purposeful course in our relationship. As in Canada, the relationship enjoys broad political support in India."

He said both will "encourage and facilitate closer engagement between our industries". He said that both sides would "benefit immensely" by early conclusion of a Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement, and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

On civil nuclear energy, Modi said: "During this visit, our two countries will resume commercial co-operation in civil nuclear energy after decades. This will be a defining symbol of our mutual trust and understanding, and of our willingness to look beyond the boundaries of the past to the opportunities of the future."

He called on Canadian Governor General David Johnston and will then meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper and attend a working lunch. He will attend a diaspora event in the evening.

There is a palpable buzz in Canada about Modi's visit. Former prime minister Indira Gandhi had visited the country in 1973. Canadian prime ministers have, however, been visiting India quite regularly.

Modi arrived here after visiting France and Germany.

Bilateral trade and investment top the agenda of Modi's talks with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper and CEOs of major Canadian companies.

In particular, Modi is wooing Canadian pension funds which hold over $600 billion. A deal may be clinched for first Uranium supplies from Canada's Cameco under the nuclear deal signed by the two countries in 2010.

Modi then moves to Toronto where he will attend a pension fund meeting followed by business level meetings.

He will visit the Air India Memorial in Toronto.

The Indian prime minister then leaves for Vancouver, where he will visit the Laxmi Narayan Temple and interact with the Indian community. He will also visit a gurdwara and interact with the Indian community.

Canadian Prime Minister Harper will host a state dinner for Modi. Modi flies back to India on April 16.

The bilateral trade between India and Canada is still stuck in the region of $6 billion, much lower than Canada's trade of over $60 billion with China.

Modi said that as Gujarat chief minister, he has "experienced the strength and value of Canada's partnership".

"I seek the same for India. In turn, as Canada looks west to the Pacific and Asia, she will find no stronger partner than India in the dynamic region. The success of our partnership will also reinforce our shared ideals in the world, which is so important for its peaceful, sustainable and prosperous future," he said.

Modi will visit Toronto on Thursday and Vancouver the following day during the visit. - IANS