Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off his visit to Canada by signing a uranium supply deal with Ottawa he says signals a new era in cooperation between the two nations.
At a joint press conference on Parliament Hill with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Modi said the agreement that will see hundreds of millions of dollars worth of uranium exported to India from Saskatchewan annually “is a mark (of Canada’s) trust and confidence” in his country.
“And this is going to take forward our relations,” Modi told the media, adding that uranium for India’s civilian nuclear program will help his country address global warming through “clean energy” and thus allows India “to give something to the world.”
Harper, who will accompany Modi to Toronto and Vancouver during the Indian leader’s three-day visit, agreed the uranium sales deal will end the lingering tension arising from India’s use of Canadian equipment to develop a nuclear bomb in the 1970s — which Harper said created “an unnecessarily frosty relationship for far too long.”
In an unexpected comment, Harper also said the two leaders agreed to push hard for a quick resolution of Canada-India free-trade talks, which have been bogged down since 2010. Harper, whose efforts to land free-trade deals with Canada’s important trading partners will be a key plank in his campaign leading up to the October election, said the deal with India would be completed by September.
Harper acknowledged that trade between Canada and India remains modest but is on the increase.
Modi, representing India’s first bilateral visit to Canada in 42 years, expressed sympathy for Canadians in relation to the Parliament Hill shooting last fall, and called for international action to confront terrorism, which he called the “enemy of humanity.”
“All those who believe in human values, they have to come together and fight against terrorism,” he said.
Modi said the United Nations, in line with its 70th anniversary, should send a message to the world by developing a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. Such an effort should define terrorism and identify countries that are supporting terrorism with financing and technological help. “All those roads have to be closed and there has to be resolution in the United Nations and I feel this is the right time, at the 70th anniversary of the UN, where the entire world has to come together to fight this menace.”
Canada and India also signed agreements for increased cooperation on civil aviation, railways and education.
Modi began the day by meeting Gov. Gen. David Johnston at Rideau Hall before a 21-gun salute and full military honours greeted him in the shadow of the Centre Block, where Harper ushered him into the building for a face-to-face meeting.
At the press conference, Modi also said India is liberalizing visas for Canadians visiting his country, allowing Canadians to apply for tourist visas online before going to India. The visas will be good for 10 years.
Modi was to be in Toronto later Wednesday to deliver a speech to members of the city’s Indo-Canadian community at Ricoh Coliseum.