Global Warming Up North: Narendra Modi’s Makes a Landmark Visit to Canada

“Barriers have turned into bridges.” – Narendra Modi on the India-Canada bilateral relationship.

By SB Veda

April 17, 2015

OTTAWA – Snows melted, ice broke and a relationship deepened as Narendra Modi was set to return to New Delhi after capping off a three day trip through Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. It was Prime Minister Modi’s first visit to Canada since taking office and the first bilateral visit by an Indian Prime Minister since 1973.

“Although India and Canada have so much in common, we were not in each others’ thoughts for so many years,” Narendra Modi said in a translated farewell speech in Vancouver. “But today it is my deep belief that not only we will be present in each other’s thoughts, but also in our endeavours we will work together. We will be with each other.”

The visit was historic. The India-Canada relationship became troubled since the days of Indira Gandhi and never quite recovered despite encouraging signs under the previous NDA government. But gains made were not capitalized under Manmohan Singh, and the relationship remained adrift. Prime Ministerial visits were certainly not in the offing between the two nations. All of this changed three days ago with Modi’s landmark visit.

During the trip, the two leaders committed to elevate the bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership and further broadened its scope through a number of important initiatives. This came before the announcement of deals, which is fast becoming a trademark of Modi’s foreign trips: he gets things done.

Various Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were inked in such areas as: rail regulation, education and skills development, space cooperation, and and child health. Canada and India also finalized all steps necessary for the entry-into-force of the Social Security Agreement, designed to coordinate pensions of people who have worked in both Canada and India. The agreement is scheduled to become falid from August 1, 2015.

Modi made a much anticipated announcement that India will issue visas upon arrival, which will make it easier for Canadians to travel to India. This move was welcomed by the Indian diaspora and business communities, in particular.

And then there was Skydome, where the Indian Prime Minister packed a stadium of more than 10,000 meant for sporting events like NHL Hockey and professional basketball, not to mention Bollywood extravaganzas and India-Pakistan cricket. The atmosphere was no less electric though as Modi held the crowd spellbound with inspirational words spliced with common wisdom.

modi skydome
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi mesmerizes a packed house of more than 10,000 fans at Toronto’s Skydome Stadium

The international media acknowledged his charisma, even that bastion of liberal opinion, The Toronto Star on the editorial pages of which Haroun Siddique had been lambasting Modi since the early 2000s. He has exported his rhetoric to the UK but had set the tone before departing. The Star’s coverage of the event, however, was positively beaming.

“There are politicians, and then there are leaders,” wrote the Star’s Robin Levinson King of Modi. “It was clear to anyone…that Modi is a leader.” She went on to conclude that Modi had “undeniable charisma,” noting: “It was as much a performance as a diplomatic speech. The crowd frequently interrupted him to chant his name, and laughed at every joke.”

The National Post had called him a “Rock Star” in the run-up to the visit.


Several commercial agreements between Canadian and Indian companies were announced during the visit. With a combined value of over $1.6 billion, these agreements will benefit a range of sectors, including aerospace and defence, education, energy, mining, infrastructure, sustainable technologies, and information and communications technology. They further demonstrate the significant growth taking place in the Canada-India bilateral commercial relationship.

One commercial agreement involving Saskatchewan-based Cameco will see the company supply India with over seven million pounds of uranium over the next five years. This deal was made possible due in part to the Canada-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement negotiated by our Government.

Prime Minister Harper and Prime Minister Modi welcomed the progress made on negotiating a Bilateral Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement and agreed to intensify discussions to finalize the outstanding issues.

The prime ministers also participated in several cultural events where they met with members of Canada’s vibrant Indo-Canadian community. During these events, Prime Minister Harper paid tribute to the tremendous contributions this community continues to make to our country’s social, cultural and economic landscape.

The leaders issued a joint statement reaffirming and further expanding the scope of the new strategic partnership between Canada and India.

Quick Facts on the India-Canada Relationship

©The Global Calcuttan
All Rights Reserved