Two armoured vehicles were sent on a $36,000-an-hour flight from Canada to India ahead of the prime minister’s visit this week, a decision the government said was made by the RCMP after assessing the security situation ahead of the trip.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has only travelled with his own vehicles on two other occasions: on trips to Haiti and Afghanistan.

Reporters spotted an SUV ferrying the prime minister around Agra, and then a Cadillac limousine in New Delhi, both with Ontario plates.

Sources told CTV’s Parliamentary Correspondent Roger Smith that the cars were shipped to India on a Globemaster cargo jet, which costs more than $36,000 an hour to fly.

The government did not say Monday why the car normally provided by the Indian government, a white Hindustan Motors Ambassador sedan, was deemed insufficient for the prime minister.

The prime minister’s spokesman, Andrew MacDougall, would only say that the RCMP is responsible for assessing the security situation ahead of such visits.

“The RCMP evaluates these things and they make the operational decisions,” MacDougall told reporters travelling with the prime minister. “I don’t have the costs in front of me. We won’t know that for a while.”

The opposition decried the move in the House of Commons Monday, asking why the government’s austerity plans did not apply to the prime minister.

“This isn’t about security, so can we please get a straight answer to this simple question,” NDP finance critic Peggy Nash said. "How much is it costing to send the prime minister's personal limousines to the Taj Mahal?"

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews responded that “the RCMP in fact have made that decision” after considering the safety of both the prime minister and the security detail travelling with him.

“I trust their judgment,” Toews said.

The RCMP did not offer specific details about the decision Monday, saying only in a statement that for security reasons, details of the security plan would not be made public.

“The deployment of RCMP resources are dictated by operational requirements, including public and officer safety considerations, and a threat assessment of the events/environments," media relations officer Cpl. Lucy Shorey said.

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae called the move unnecessary.

“The Indian government has lots of ways of providing security to its senior officials, I’m sure they would have done the same for us,” Rae told reporters outside the House. “It’s all kind of a bit of the presidential arrogance that I think we’ve seen more and more of in Canada, but there’s really no need for it.”

The U.S. president regularly travels abroad with a custom armoured vehicle, dubbed “the Beast,” or “Cadillac One.”

Ty Watts, of LTD & Associates, Inc., which has helped plan security measures for visits by heads of state to Canada, said he did not find the move excessive.

Watts said the Mounties would have looked at the prime minister’s agenda, as well as potential threats, and concluded that “what was available was not sufficient” to provide security for the visit.

“Things have to be stepped up in order to provide that protection to make sure there’s no embarrassment brought on either ourselves or the foreign country that Canada’s visiting,” Watts told CTV’s Power Play. “And to make sure that everything happens in a proper manner.”

The prime minister is on a six-day trip, four-city trip to India, where he hopes to boost trade relations. On Monday, he and his wife, Laureen, visited the Taj Mahal.

With files from CTV’s Parliamentary Correspondent Roger Smith and The Canadian Press