PM Harper's trip to India takes off with a savoury start
With an eye towards boosting trade and settling unresolved negotiations, Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in India on Sunday accompanied by three Indo-Canadian MPs.
During the trip to India, one of Harper’s longest expeditions to a foreign country to date, the prime minister hopes to iron out a number of stalled discussions with the so-called tiger economy.
But before digging into politics, the prime minister dug into a tastier exploit.
En route to Agra, Harper and his travelling companions shared a plate of samosas -- an Indian pastry chock-full of a savoury filling made up of foods such as potatoes, chicken or lentils.
"I love Indian food,” Harper told reporters and photographers that had been invited to his private cabin. “I don't eat it that often, but I love Indian food.”
Harper’s trip, however, is about more than just culinary and cultural delights.
Canada and India are still trying to hammer away at a foreign investment and trade deal. Another deal involving the sale of uranium also remains a sticking point for the two economies.
“But everything’s moving very slowly. Canadians say the Indian government, which is a minority government, is really suffering a political paralysis and hasn’t really moved much on any of these files,” CTV News’ Parliamentary Correspondent Roger Smith told News Channel on Sunday.
Canada hopes that those talks will be revived by Harper’s visit, Smith noted.
And while trade between Canada and India currently sits at just $5.2 billion annually, the two nations would like to see that number increase to $15 billion by 2015.
“There’s a feeling that there’s a lot more we could do,” said Smith, on the line from Agra.
The nuclear deal, one of the largest knots between the two countries, involves Canada selling uranium to India for use in nuclear power plants under a two-year-old agreement.
Canada would like to know precisely how the uranium is being used, but India has argued it will already be adhering to safeguards set out by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
As well, talks of a Canada-India free trade deal also linger in the backdrop of Harper’s trip.
Rana Sarkar, president and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council, says that Canada needs to tread carefully when negotiating with India, lest it lose an opportunity to diversify trade.
“There’s a lot of other countries knocking at the same door that we are. We have to be aggressive, we have to be bold,” he told CTV News Channel in an interview from New Delhi.
“We’re looking to make ourselves useful in India and we do that by turning up and providing specific bits of value. So, it’s leveraging from resources to resourcefulness.”
On Monday, Harper plans to visit India’s iconic Taj Majal. Afterwards, the prime minister is scheduled to take part in a business forum in New Delhi.
With files from The Canadian Press