The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has arrived in Mumbai on a three-day state visit to India. He hopes his visit will mark “a new era of partnership” between the two countries. The two nations are expected to finalize a civil nuclear deal and ink a major economic treaty during Harper’s visit.
The Canadian PM is on a extensive tour of Asia where he was attending the APEC summit in Singapore. In addition to Mumbai, the agenda also lists stops in New Delhi and Amritsar. He has a busy schedule on his three day tour with the first day starting with a round table with Indian investors in Canada. He is also scheduled for a tour of Chabad House, the Jewish centre that was the site of a hostage-taking and terror attack a year ago during Mumbai attacks.
This also seems to be the first step in Canada looking eastwards for growing markets and economic cooperation.
Acknowledging the growing importance of Asian trade to Canadian prosperity, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday that Canada will increasingly look eastward for its future.
“While Canada’s economy was built through trans-Atlantic trade, our future prosperity will increasingly depend on our ties to the Pacific,” Harper told reporters as the close of the APEC summit here.
It wasn’t a formal policy statement by any stretch but it might be the first step in getting there.
The PM seemed to echo the sentiments of other leaders including U.S. President Obama, who felt that the importance of economies in this region has grown after the economic slump.
“The region is home to some of the most dynamic and fastest growing economies,” Harper acknowledged during a post-summit briefing.
The Canadian PM also felt that the current Conservative government has actually re-engaged in India in a way Canadian governments have not since the 1970s. While downplaying the fact that he is visiting India after almost four years of taking over the charge of government he said that he has met Indian leaders “on numerous occasions” and there have been a number of ministerial visits. He brushed off suggestions that he is late coming to the table with the two Asian nations housing one-third of human population.
He is also scheduled to visit China next month. Relations between Canada and China had strained a bit after Harper came to power in 2006, after Canada had criticized Chinese stand on Human Rights.
Indian PM, Manmohan Singh and Harper are likely to talk about a Canada-India Free Trade Agreement or a series of smaller steps to lower trade barriers between the two nations.
Harper recently noted that “there is a tremendous amount of potential” in Canada’s ties with India.
(Harper said) “we share a history of cooperation in the Commonwealth and the United Nations, as well as a shared commitment to pluralism, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.“
“Our goal is to build a stronger, more dynamic partnership based on shared commercial, political and regional interests,” Harper had said.
The Canadian PM is also meeting Bollywood actor, Akshay Kumar for a photo-shoot. In another photo opportunity later in the day Harper and his wife Laureen will visit Indo-Canadian contestants in the reality show Dance Premier League.