In Canada, Modi hard sells India's development

April 16, 2015 11:15 am | Updated April 02, 2016 04:33 pm IST - Toronto

It was a reaffirmation of bonds that crossed national borders and community identities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi not only kept the 8,000-strong audience of mostly Indo-Canadians roaring with approval on their feet during his speech of one hour and ten minutes at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum, but he pitched his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper an enticing invitation to be a partner in his vision for India’s development.

The bond between the men was evident and Mr. Harper reminded the gathering of Canada’s historical friendship with the Prime Minister.

He said: “I am so proud to say that [Modi] has long been a friend to Canada and we to him as during as during his many years as Chief Minister of Gujarat we had extended the hand of friendship long before others.”

The point was not missed on Mr. Modi, who noted that since the time he launched the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summit in 2003, the year following the anti-Muslim riots in that state, Canada had consistently been a partner-state of Gujarat’s, even until today.

On this occasion Mr. Modi came bearing a gift for Canadians and they cheered loudest when Mr. Harper announced what it was — the inclusion of Canada in the list of nations receiving a visa-on-arrival from India.

Yet if the bonhomie was the icing on the cake, the main subject on Mr. Modi’s mind was India’s development, whether through the construction of more toilets for girls, or through the expansion of opportunities for the youth of India to innovate and create the next IBM or mp3.

As he wrote earlier in the day in an op-ed published by the Globe and Mail , Mr. Modi admitted that the bilateral relationship had somewhat “drifted,” and yet, he said, the two countries were cooperating in deep space even as their relationship on the ground remained unfulfilled.

Mr. Modi also sought to defend the progress made on the Jan Dhan Yojana under his government, answering critics who questioned the logic of opening millions of bank accounts with a zero bank balance saying the poor did in fact save their incomes, and had done so to the tune of Rs. 14,000 crores.

At the heart of his speech was his repeated assertion, “ jan man badla hai ,” or “The minds of the people have changed,” over his ten months in office, and that India was finally on the move.

While the Prime Minister did not appear to allude to the protection of religious minority rights, as he has done on past occasions, a group of 150 or more protestors held a rally a short distance away from the venue, some from the Sikhs for Justice rights group protesting Mr. Modi’s alleged involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Modi's three nation tour

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