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Canadian PM arrives; defence, counter-terrorism on agenda

Ashok Tuteja | New Delhi |

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived here on Saturday on a week-long State visit to India aimed at strengthening ties between the two nations in key areas such as trade, counter-terrorism, energy, education, infrastructure and development.

The Canadian leader, who is accompanied by a high-level delegation, was received at the airport by senior Canadian and Indian officials. There are as many as six ministers in his delegation, including all four Sikh members of the Cabinet.

‘’Wheels up for India and a busy visit, focused on creating good jobs and strengthening the deep connection between the people of our two countries,’’ Trudeau tweeted before emplaning for New Delhi.

India and Canada enjoy strong ties but no Canadian leader has visited this country since then Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s six-day tour in 2012. Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Canada in 2015 during which ties between the two countries were elevated to strategic partnership.

However, the anti-India activities of ‘Khalistani’ elements operating from Canada’s soil have been a constant source of irritation between the two countries. What has upset New Delhi is the fact that the Canadian PM and senior leaders of his party have been seen hobnobbing with such elements from time to time. The trip itself comes amid reports that several Sikh gurdwaras in Canada have banned the entry of Indian officials.

According to External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, all issues of mutual interest would be on the table when the visiting leader meets PM Modi and other Indian leaders on 23 February. It is understood that India would convey to the Canadian side its concern over the activities of Sikh radicals, among other things. Trudeau will also visit Agra, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Amritsar during his week-long sojourn.

Ahead of the Canadian leader’s visit, the national security advisers of India and Canada met to discuss the agenda of discussions. The two sides are learnt to have decided to strengthen defence and security cooperation.

On trade, sources said Canadian investments in India were likely to decline in the absence of a mechanism to protect them. Trudeau and Modi may deliberate on firming up the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between the two countries. The negotiators of both countries met last week to overcome the hurdles in finalising the pact.

Sources said the objective of the Canadian leader’s visit was to expand overall ties. Both sides are also expected to deliberate on enhancing cooperation in civil nuclear sector.