Modi In Vancouver: Sikh Community Welcomes PM; Calls Visit 'Historic'

17/04/2015 8:27 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
ANDY CLARK via Getty Images
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) walk together during a visit to the Gurdwara Khalsa Diwan in Vancouver, British Columbia, April 16, 2015. Modi is on an official visit to Canada. AFP PHOTO / Pool / ANY CLARK (Photo credit should read ANDY CLARK/AFP/Getty Images)

VANCOUVER — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper visited the Gurdwara Khalsa Diwan at Ross Street in Vancouver during the third and final leg of his three-nation, nine-day tour, with the city's Sikh community hailing his visit as 'historic'.

Covering his head with a saffron cloth, Prime Minister Modi was accompanied by Khalsa Diwan Society president Sohan Singh Deo, who took him around the Gurdwara.

"My relationship with you all is a blood relation because one of Guru Gobind Singh's 'Panj Pyare' came from Gujarat. We are people who know how to 'give'. The Sikh culture laid the foundation of love and sacrifices in India. Taking inspiration from Bhagat Singh, so many Sikh youngsters devoted themselves to the freedom struggle," Prime Minister Modi said, while addressing the devotees at the Gurdwara.

"The Sikh community has worked hard and has earned the respect of the people of Canada. India is respected in Canada and this is due to your efforts. Wherever we are, let us do things that bring pride to our nation," he added.

Later, Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Harper were gifted Sikh ceremonial swords by the Gurdwara committee.

"This is a very significant visit... [and] a big occasion for Khalsa Diwan Society and the community. The Indian community is very happy, and they are going to welcome Prime Minister Modi open heartedly. It is a historic day for the community," Deo said.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Modi held a round table conference with heads of pension funds, banks and other financial leaders of Canada.

The Prime Minister also visited the memorial to the Air India 'Kanishka' bombing in Toronto, paying tributes to the victims in a wreath laying ceremony. Prime Minister Modi, along with Prime Minister Harper also met the kin of the victims.

He met Canadian Governor General David Johnston, before holding a tete-a-tete with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper.

The Prime Minister also attended a ceremonial reception before being accorded a guard of honour.

Prime Minister Modi's trip to Canada is the first bilateral visit by an Indian Prime Minister in 42 years. Prime Minister Modi arrived here after concluding a successful visit to France and Germany.

"This is a very significant visit. Prime Minister Modi is the third Indian prime minister to come here, after Jawaharlal Nehru in 1949 and Indira Gandhi in 1973. It is a big occasion for Khalsa Diwan Society and the community," Khalsa Diwan Society president Sohan Singh Deo told ANI.

"The Sikh community, the Hindu community and all the Indian communities are very happy, and they are going to welcome him open heartedly. It is a historic day for the community," he added.

Modi and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper also visited the Laxmi Narayan temple in Vancouver on Thursday.

The Prime Minister's supporters have him an enthusiastic welcome, clicking his photo and chanting "Modi, Modi" while waving the flags of India and Canada.

Modi prayed at the temple, with the priest applying tika on his forehead. Later, he addressed his supporters, stating that Hinduism is not a religion but is a way of life.

"I bring greetings from 1.2 billion Indians to the 1.2 million Indians living in Canada. In India, the Supreme Court gave a superb definition for Hinduism: they said that it is not a religion but a way of life: how to live in synchrony with nature," the Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister Modi also spoke about the upcoming first International Yoga Day.

"Last year in September, I spoke at the UN General Assembly for the first time and requested that June 21 be celebrated as

International Yoga Day. The UN has agreed to this and 177 countries have become its co-sponsors," he said.

"It is good if people of Indian origin help in the spread of yoga. Yoga is very essential to guide humanity, for mental peace and good health," he added.

Modi, in a meeting with investment fund managers, assured to facilitate their concerns, adding that bureaucracy shall no longer be an issue in India.

"I want to give assurance on what I said in Parliament. There shall be no surprises. India has many opportunities in investment. For example, you can build malls near railway stations. Send a team to India, and we will have a group to facilitate you. We will provide a red carpet to cut the red tape," the Prime Minister said at the hour-long meet.

The Prime Minister further asked the 10 investment fund managers present on what changes can be made to encourage them to invest in India, to which all in unison called for long term predictability and stability.

"The mood has changed and there is an excitement about India. The demand to do business with India has gone up exponentially. Canadians have not been this excited about the visit of an Indian prime minister as they have been on this occasion," they said.

"We want long term predictability and long term stability. When big players invest, they don't look for short term gains. We have interest in many sectors, including infrastructure, real estate and tourism. However, we don't want changes in tax policies, especially retrospective taxation. Changes in taxation policy result in planning issues," they added.

Meanwhile, one investor said that he had USD one billion invested in India and was now looking at more options in India for further investment.

The investors suggested that authorisation could be eased in certain areas, where duplicatory permissions were needed.

Among the participants at the meeting were the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ), Sun Life Financial, BMO financial, Manulife Financial, Scotiabank, Bank of British Columbia and the TD Bank, which has USD one trillion as its corpus.

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