By Ajit Jain
Toronto— Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, who was leader of the Canadian delegation to the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, said that he along with Minister for Labor and Women Affairs Dr. Kelie Leitch, and other Canadian parliamentarians had a private meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We did discuss the two key bilateral issues that Canada and India have been working on for some time – the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) which we would very much like to see completed, particularly as the Canada China FIPA has come into force last year,” he said in a teleconference.
“Then secondly, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA); These two remain key objectives for us on the Canadian side,” Alexander emphasized in answer to a question from the Indian Diaspora.
“PM Modi and his team also recognize the advantages there would be from upgraded economic bilateral relations, but we will have to wait a bit longer to know exactly what the timelines and next milestones will be on those two fronts.”
He referred to a meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Modi at the G20 Summit in Brisbane (Australia) in November last year. “We all recognize how important Canada-India relations have been in the foreign policy sphere. We’ve been major partners in trying to strengthen the global recovery. We’ve been major partners in strengthening counter terrorism cooperation,” Alexander stated.
“We’ve worked together in Afghanistan as I know firsthand, and for the last couple of years we’ve also coordinated our policy approach to Sri Lanka which has contributed to the success of the last election there and the democratic transition that’s now underway,” explained Alexander.
Canada is keen that cooperation between the two countries “deepens and continues across the board and all of that will be on the agenda for us with PM Modi and his team in the months and years to come,” he told this reporter.
He wouldn’t go into details of the private meeting with Prime Minister Modi as the topics come within the purview of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and International Trade Minister Ed Fast. “I won’t share all the details of a private meeting obviously because some of the issues we’re working on will have to await the appropriate moment before they become public. My colleagues, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Trade, obviously have the principal role in shaping our bilateral agenda with India.”
According to him “It was a very warm discussion. PM Modi knows Canada well because we have been such active participants in Vibrant Gujarat for over 18 years now. He also knows very well how strong the Gujarati diaspora is in Canada. It may be up to one quarter of all the Indo-Canadians in this country, and so their success has been part of Gujarat’s success.” And “the prime minister (of India) recognizes that,” Alexander stated emphatically.
“PM Modi publicly, (in his keynote address at Vibrant Gujarat) singled out Canada and Japan and thanked us for our support,” said Alexander.
The Vibrant Gujarat Summit has assumed a great deal of significance as at the plenary session close to 7,000 people were present and foreign participants included US Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.
Prime Minister Modi, formerly as chief minister of Gujarat, has been hosting Vibrant Gujarat for over a decade now, Alexander said. Economic reforms, that he started in Gujarat, are being replicated “at the national level in India, generating a lot of interest worldwide,” he noted. There were 25,000 visitors to the exhibition halls of Vibrant Gujarat.
“Our presence was also very impressive; close to 200-strong member delegation, many of them Indo-Canadian business people, and there were others too,” said Alexander.
Besides Baroda, Alexander and some members of the Canadian delegation, went to Bangalore and Chennai. Alexander’s visit to Bangalore pertained to the formal opening of the Canadian visa office there, and this office, under the leadership of the Canadian Consul-General, will cover all southern India, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Bangalore is now the third Canadian visa office in India. The other two are in Delhi and Chandigarh.
The visit of the Canadian delegation to India “was a good experience”, the Canadian minister concluded.
Other Canadian leaders who were part of the delegation included Parliamentary Secretary Deepak Obhrai, and Conservative MP from Calgary (Alberta) Devinder Shory.
(Ajit Jain is Canada Editor of the Indian Diaspora. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
This story originally appeared on The Indian Diaspora.