When Prime Minister Narendra Modi lands in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, on Tuesday evening, it will mark the fruition of a trip that’s been nearly six years in the making.
In fact, Modi was keen on making Canada one of his initial foreign destinations. “He (Modi) told me that,” said Patrick Brown, a Canadian Member of Parliament who chairs the Canada-India Parliamentary Association. “We were working on a visit for him before he became the Prime Minister. He never forgets that Canada and Japan were early supporters of Vibrant Gujarat.”
The reasons behind the postponement of that visit, which could have come within a couple of months after Modi assumed office, included difficulties in matching his schedule with that of his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper, and also as officials believed that more time was required to re-energise talks on critical areas that had stalled in the previous months.
While Modi was denied a visa to visit the United State, its northern neighbor posed no such problem for the PM. “It was cleared by the Canadian government as early as 2009,” Brown said.
Modi was likely to visit Canada in 2013, but as the details were being planned he embarked on a marathon campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the visit was shelved.
The major shift in how Canada dealt with Modi in Gujarat came as Stewart Beck took charge as High Commissioner in New Delhi at the end of 2010. In January 2011, at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, Canada was a partner country — the first Western nation to do so.
On his government’s approach to the issue of the Gujarat riots, Beck, whose tenure ended in 2014, said, “My own view was that the accusations were being handled in an appropriate manner. He (Modi) hadn’t been charged.”