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Why Harper's India visit is crucial

November 14, 2009 03:33 IST

Ajit Jain, rediff India Abroad Managing Editor, Canada, who is travelling with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his first-ever visit to India, reports on the importance of the visit.   

Accompanying Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his first-ever official visit to India are Foreign Affairs minister Lawrence Cannon, Minister for International Trade Stockwell Day and parliamentary secretary to foreign affairs minister, Deepak Obhrai. 

Obhrai -- who was on Harper's Airbus -- in an interview with rediff India Abroad emphasized the importance of such a high-level trip.

"Such a high-power delegation should speak volume that we, our Conservative government, is laying all emphasis possible on our relations with India, strengthening our relations with India," he said.

Asked what agreements Harper would sign with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh, he said, "Diplomacy doesn't work that way."

Obhrai said, "This visit is very significant as it demonstrates that Canada has close relationship with India and that we want these bilateral relations to strengthen further.

"It is hard for me to predict if any major agreements will be signed. Agreements between two countries take time to work out but through meetings at the highest level, leaders from two sides demonstrate to their own respective officials their own commitments on various issues," Obhrai said.

He said the two countries had been for long talking on signing the civilian nuclear agreement.

"Our vote in favor of India, in favor of waiver for the US-India civilian nuclear agreement in the Nuclear Suppliers Group indicates Canada's relations with India.  Such votes are not given lightly," Obhrai said.

He then went into the history of Canada-India interest in singing the free trade agreement. "I was the one who first publicly talked about it a few years ago when nobody would talk that there should be a free trade agreement between our two countries.  When I made this suggestion, a lot of people criticised me and now we all know after a few years everybody in Canada and India are talking about the free trade agreement."

 "I must say a lot of progress has taken place on the nuclear-civilian agreement on free trade agreement and on Foreign Investment Protection Agreement," said Obhrai.

'There will be agreements in the education field, in the cultural field."

This is for the first time that all Conservative Indo-Canadian Members of Parliament --  besides Obhrai are Nina Grewal, Tim Uppal, Devinder Shory and there will be Patrick Brown also, who's the President of Canada-India Parliamentary Association -- are accompanying Harper to India.

"Normally the party whip wouldn't allow that, but this time is an exception, another demonstration of emphasis being made to this visit."

Harper and his delegation will first visit Mumbai, where they will have a roundtable discussion with the Indo-Canadian businessmen who are flying in the city at the invitation of the Canadian government. They include Ramesh Chotai, president and CEO of Bromad Pharma, Vasdev Chanchlani, co-founder of Sigma System, Aditya Jha, president of Karma Candy and dozens of others. 

Besides New Delhi, Harper will also go to Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple.

"All we Indo-Canadian MPs would accompany the prime minister to the Golden Temple in Amritsar," said Obhrai.

Obhrai was happy that Dr Singh will visit Canada June next year for the G20 summit. There are indications that he's likely to travel to Montreal to receive the Honorary  degree from McGill University.