Canadian PM to visit India in November



Toronto: Responding to an invitation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will visit India in November.

Though no official announcement of the Prime Minister's visit has yet been made, Canwest news agency quoted official sources in Ottawa as saying that Harper will be in India during November 15-18.

During his meetings with the Indian Prime Minister, Harper will in all likelihood ink a free trade agreement to boost bilateral trade between the two countries.

Apart from New Delhi, the Canadian Prime Minister is also likely to visit Mumbai and possibly Chennai or Hyderabad as many Canadian companies are based there, the news agency said.

Both Harper and Singh have extended invitations to each other to visit their respective countries.

Under Canada's 'look-east' policy since 2003, two Prime Ministers have already visited India. While Jean Chretien was in India in November 2003, his successor Paul Martin travelled to India in 2005.

Harper, who took over in 2006, will be the third Canadian Prime Minister to visit India.

On the other hand, no Indian Prime Minister has visited Canada since IK Gujral during his short stint in the office in the late nineties.

The visit of the Canadian Prime Minister assumes significance as Canada is expanding its business presence in India by opening more trade offices.

Reversing its policy last year, Canada backed India at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to allow it access to nuclear technology and fuel. It followed this up in January by resuming nuclear ties with India which were frozen after New Delhi conducted its first nuclear test in 1974.

The Canadian nuclear industry is eyeing business worth billion of dollars through sale of uranium and nuclear technology to India.

"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, which has been minimal," the news agency quoted a former political staffer who has been advising the Canadian Prime Minister on India as saying.

Since January this year, as many as five Canadian Cabinet ministers have visited India to push up bilateral trade currently pegged at USD 4.6 billion.

IANS