Uranium deal kicks off Indian PM Narendra Modi's visit to Canada
Three-day trip to Canada first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister since 1973
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi began the first full day of his visit to Canada by signing a deal to buy more than 3,000 tonnes of Saskatchewan uranium over the next five years to fuel his country's power reactors.
The Indian leader was welcomed to Parliament Hill by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and full military honours, including a 19-gun salute.
- Analysis: Why India matters to Canada
- Canada claiming 'special relationship' with India's Narendra Modi
- The elaborate strategy behind Modi's rock star status
The uranium contract with Cameco Corp. (TSX:CCO) is one of a number of agreements signed Wednesday.
They include pledges to co-operate in the areas of civil aviation, railway transportation and education and skills development, as well as space, social security and maternal, newborn and child health.
"Canada is ready to deepen co-operation with India in science, education, defence and space technology," Harper said as the two leaders stood side by side in the Centre Block.
Modi praised Harper for improving relations between the two countries, saying they had drifted for a while, but are now back on track.
"I am conscious of the significance of this visit in the history of our relations," Modi said. "I have come at a time when the importance of this relationship for our two countries has never been stronger.
"Canada has the potential to be a key partner in every area of India's national development strategy: energy and infrastructure, manufacturing and skills, smart cities and agro-industry and research and education."
Modi began the day by meeting Gov. Gen. David Johnston at Rideau Hall before a full honour guard and the din of howitzer fire greeted him in the shadow of the Centre Block, where Harper ushered him in for a face-to-face meeting.
Modi now moves on to Toronto for events with the Indo-Canadian community there.
Visit to continue in Vancouver
Harper will also accompany the charismatic Modi to Vancouver, with no fewer than 16 fellow Conservatives scheduled to appear with them at various events.
A number of key Conservative MPs, including Defence Minister Jason Kenney, were on hand to greet Modi when his plane arrived Tuesday in Ottawa.
Modi's trip is the first bilateral visit to Canada by an Indian prime minister since Indira Gandhi was hosted in 1973 by then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
The visit gives Canadians their first glimpse of Modi, who swept to power last May. Handfuls of supporters lined the lawn in front of the Parliament buildings, chanting his name as he arrived.
"He's a rock star," said Ravi Desai, an international student and IT worker from India who lives in Ottawa.
"He's putting aside a lot of traditional things that other governments used to do and he's focusing on technology, and that's what (the youth of India) need," he said.
Louise Comeau, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, would like to see Modi and Harper prod each other to make strong commitments to reduce greenhouse gases ahead of the UN climate conference in Paris in December.
"Neither country is performing to its best potential," she said. "We have a very large population in Canada with connections in India — we have opportunities for trading in clean energy."