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Six years in making, Modi's Canada tour to be 1st bilateral trip by Indian PM

india Updated: Apr 14, 2015 16:54 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
Modi's foreign trip


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 neighbour 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.

Indian and Canadian negotiators were rushing to iron out differences in a long-stalled foreign investment protection pact in time for PM Modi's visit.

Modi's visit will be the first bilateral tour by an Indian PM in 42 years.

Negotiations for the agreement, which seeks to protect legal rights of Canadian and Indian investors doing business in the two countries, were concluded in June 2007, but it has yet to be ratified.

The two countries are negotiating a free trade agreement, but progress has been slow.

Canada is home to 1.2 million Indians but the size of bilateral trade is a relatively small $6 billion a year.

Modi's trip could also clinch a fuel supply agreement with Canada's biggest uranium producer, Cameco, two Indian sources said.

A similar investment agreement with Europe has been reinvigorated and could be finalised within three months, the first source added.

With inputs from Reuters