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Prime Minister Stephen Harper examines the walls surrounding the Golden Temple as he visits the holy site in Amritsar, India, on Wednesday, November 18, 2009. (Adrian Wyld)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper examines the walls surrounding the Golden Temple as he visits the holy site in Amritsar, India, on Wednesday, November 18, 2009. (Adrian Wyld)

Ottawa Notebook

Canadian reporters make Indian headlines Add to ...

Our man in New Delhi, John Ibbitson, has caused a stir in the Indian news media with a question he posed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about nuclear technology.

Travelling with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mr. Ibbitson asked how Canadians can trust that any technology sent to India will be safely and appropriately used.

This was enough to provoke a pointed article in the Indian press about the ignorance of the Canadian press.

"Opposing the proposed civil nuclear deal between the two countries, John Ibbitson of the Globe and Mail, who is perhaps visiting India for the first time, says: 'But India's nuclear facilities have been placed on high alert, as evidence emerges that two men, one of them Canadian, might have scouted sites for the terrorist attack on Mumbai last year...'," the article says.

The piece, carried by the Indo-Asian News Service, goes on to accuse Mr. Ibbitson of "carrying his ridiculous argument further" by writing: "Does Canada really want to help sell nuclear technology to a country that is in the midst of such a volatile region, a country that in the 1970s appropriated our first foray into building Indian nuclear reactors to help fashion nuclear weapons, a country whose nuclear reactors would be an ideal ground zero for jihadists?"

It also attacks a "left-wing" Toronto Star reporter for his argument that Mr. Harper is in India more to firm up domestic public relations than to secure international trade deals.

"Not surprisingly, the current Canadian Prime Minister has always had prickly relations with his nation's media," the Indian report says. (They must have been well-briefed!)

It turns out it wasn't only Mr. Ibbitson to blame. As is common practice, reporters had huddled together before the press conference and decided, since they were only allowed a handful of questions, what they ought to ask and who should do the honours.

As Canwest's David Akin notes, "So, though John was the interrogator, it was a question we collectively decided upon (and one which I strongly pushed for, in fact.)"

Mr. Ibbitson is travelling in India for the first time as is Prime Minister Harper. They spent three days there and are now on their way home now.

Says Mr. Ibbitson: "The Indian press is highly opinionated - even more than the Canadian. But it's all part of this wonderful chaotic, chaotically-wonderful country."

He says he wishes he could say more, but notes he's working on three hours of sleep after a day that included a flight to Amritsar for a visit to the Golden Temple. They then returned to New Delhi and "in 20 hours or so we'll be home."

"The Indian report was correct; this was my first visit. But India is a country you leave counting the time until you can return."

Follow on Twitter: @janetaber1

 

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