Toronto: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will visit India next week, his maiden official trip to the country during which the two sides are expected to finalise a civil nuclear deal and ink a major economic treaty besides exploring ways to lower trade barriers.
The Conservative leader will pay a three-day visit to India from November 16 after participating in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore, the Prime Minister`s office said. This will be followed by a visit to China from December 2 to 6.
Harper, who will be accompanied by a high-powered delegation, will discuss bilateral issues with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
He is also expected to finalise a deal allowing Canadian firms to sell civilian nuclear technology to India and sign a Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement to safeguard investors` rights in the two countries, officials said.
Noting that "there is a tremendous amount of potential" in Canada`s ties with India, Harper said in a statement, "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," he said.
Singh and Harper are expected to use the trip to talk about a Canada-India Free Trade Agreement or smaller steps to lower trade barriers between the two countries.
Harper`s visit follows 11 ministerial-level visits to India since 2006, S M Gavai, High Commissioner of India said.
India is one of the world`s fastest growing economies and trade between India and Canada is increasing. The strength of ties between the two countries is also reflected in the fact that an estimated one million Indian origin people are residing in Canada and 7,300 Indian students are currently studying here, Gavai said.
In addition to New Delhi, Harper is also likely to visit the country`s commercial hub of Mumbai. He may also consider visits to Chennai or Hyderabad, where Canadian companies are particularly active.
"This visit reflects the continuation of the strong relations between Canada and India, which our government has worked hard to achieve for the past three years," Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who will accompany Harper, said in a statement.
Canada has ramped up activities in India in the last few years, opening several trade offices in the hope of boosting a trade relationship valued now at a relatively minuscule USD two billion a year.
"The footprint of Canada is very strong in India and it suggests that the government is building a foundation on which to really expand trade," a diplomatic source said.