OTTAWA—The relationship between India and Canada is now back on track, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Wednesday after signing a number of bilateral agreements, including a deal to buy Canadian uranium to fuel his country’s power reactors.
Modi and Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed Wednesday the deal is just a first step towards deepening economic ties, and that the relationship between the two countries hasn’t yet lived up to its potential.
“Canada is a major Asia-Pacific power and should play a more active role, including in regional institutions,” Modi said, standing next to Harper.
Harper said he agreed: “It’s not where we want it to be, but it is growing.”
Under the nuclear deal, India will buy more than 3,000 tonnes of Saskatchewan uranium.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who was on hand for the announcement, said the deal, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, would be a boon for his province.
“For an employer of 4,000 people in the province—45 percent of them First Nations and Metis—it’s a great day for Saskatchewan.”
The contract with Cameco Corp. is one of a number of agreements that were announced Wednesday, after Harper welcomed Modi to Parliament Hill amid full military honours, including a 19-gun salute.
The deals include pledges to co-operate in the areas of civil aviation, railway transportation, and education and skills development, as well as space, social security and maternal, newborn and child health.
“Canada is ready to deepen co-operation with India in science, education, defence, and space technology,” Harper said, Modi standing alongside.
Modi praised Harper for improving relations between the two countries, saying they had drifted for a while, but are now back on track.
“I am conscious of the significance of this visit in the history of our relations,” he said. “I have come at a time when the importance of this relationship for our two countries has never been stronger.
“Canada has the potential to be a key partner in every area of India’s national development strategy: energy and infrastructure, manufacturing and skills, smart cities and agro-industry and research and education.”
‘He’s a Rock Star’
It is the first bilateral visit to Canada by an Indian prime minister since Indira Gandhi was hosted in 1973 by then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
Modi began the day by meeting Gov. Gen. David Johnston at Rideau Hall before a full honour guard and the din of howitzer fire greeted him in the shadow of the Centre Block, where Harper ushered him in for a face-to-face meeting.
Handfuls of supporters chanted Modi’s name as he arrived on the Hill.
“He’s a rock star,” said Ravi Desai, an international student and IT worker from India who lives in Ottawa.
“He’s putting aside a lot of traditional things that other governments used to do and he’s focusing on technology, and that’s what (the youth of India) need,” he added.
Following their talks, the two leaders travelled to Toronto, where Modi is scheduled to address members of the city’s Indian diaspora.
A crowd of about 150 supporters, some of them dancing and chanting, greeted the two leaders as they arrived at Toronto’s Pearson airport.
However, while they shook hands with members of the crowd, Modi’s critics, who view him as an extremist Hindu nationalist with blood on his hands from his time as chief minister of Gujarat state, were in a Toronto courtroom trying to launch a private prosecution of Modi.
Sikh advocacy groups allege his “acts and omissions” resulted in a massacre of Muslims in his state in 2002.
Part of the Criminal Code allows for the prosecution of individuals who are accused of acts of torture abroad while they are in Canada.
The groups’ lawyer, Marlys Edwardh, said in a statement there were reasonable and probable grounds to believe that Modi engaged in the crimes. “Only by taking this step will Canada’s commitment to ending impunity for torture and genocide be realized.”
The attorney general last week decided against taking any action.
Modi’s next stop is Vancouver, where he will be accompanied by Harper and no fewer than 16 fellow Conservatives scheduled to appear with them at various events.