India is ‘top priority’ for new Canadian government

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : Deepening bilateral ties with India will be the new Canadian government’s “top priority”, says seniormost Indo-Canadian parliamentarian Deepak Obhrai.

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Obhrai, who was re-elected to the Canadian parliament in Monday’s polls, said: “My prime minister Stephen Harper had put relationship with India on his priority list last time, and we will now pursue our engagement with India without any problems.”

The six-time MP from Calgary East, who is parliamentary secretary to the country’s foreign minister, said the prime minister was eager to visit India again after his successful visit to New Delhi in 2009.

“I can tell you that he wants to go to India at the earliest to further deepen our ties. We will soon start working on it (his visit) as India remains our top priority,” Obhrai, who won by a record margin of 67.4 percent, told IANS in an interview.

Obhrai is one of the nine Indian-origin candidates elected in Monday’s polls which returned the ruling Conservative Party with 167 seats in the 308-member parliament.

Kam Rathee, vice-chairman of the Canada-India Education Council, told IANS: “The Conservative victory will have a domino effect on Canada-India relations and a major impact on the business and education corridors between the two countries.”

Calling the Canadian prime minister an “Indophile,’ Rathee said, “The Conservative Party has the best track record in promoting Canada-India trade, as witnessed by numerous trips to India undertaken by its ministers and the inking of several agreements between the two nations.

“His (prime minister) visit to India in 2009 and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Canada during G-20 set up a strong foundation of business co-operation. This will continue the momentum generated towards the completion of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).”

Rathee urged the government to commit “resources to the tune of $10 million to strengthen the Canada-India education corridor” to make Canada the preferred choice for students from India.

The Canada India Foundation (CIF) also said it “expects the new Conservative government to fulfil its commitment of concluding the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India by the year 2013 and related growth of bilateral trade to $15 billion in 5 years.”

“We look forward to Canada developing stronger ties with India in the civil nuclear sector, and making major investments in the education sector, including the previously announced $12 million Canada Excellence Research Chair program, focused on India,” said CIF executive director Kalyan Sundaram.

Atul Ahuja, former director of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, told IANS: “The Tory victory is very good for India-Canada trade. Prime minister Stephen Harper in 2006 pushed for a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA) which was a significant step towards closer trade ties. There is a need to increase trade with India and encourage business-people to engage in trade and business deals.”

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at [email protected])