Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was met by Conservative MPs and fans from Ottawa's Indo-Canadian community Tuesday evening as he began a landmark visit that will take him to three Canadian cities.
After arriving at the Ottawa airport around 6 pm, Mr. Modi shook hands on the tarmac with Defence Minister Jason Kenney, International Trade Minister Ed Fast and several other Conservative MPs. He greeted members of Ottawa's Indo-Canadian community, who snapped photos of him on their phones and leaned over barriers to get a better look at the famous politician.
Mr. Modi's visit to Canada comes after stops in Germany and France, where he worked to boost trade and promote a "Make in India" campaign that's aimed at convincing more companies to establish manufacturing plants in India. While in Canada, Mr. Modi will deliver a speech to nearly 10,000 Indo-Canadians, meet with the heads of pension funds and banks, and attend an official dinner with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
His trip to Canada this week marks the first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister in more than 40 years. He will be accompanied during stops in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is eager to court the 1.2 million people of Indian origin in Canada ahead of the next federal election.
Mr. Modi has a rock star-like status among some Indo-Canadians, who will pack into Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum on Wednesday night for a chance to hear him speak. However, the Indian politician is also a controversial figure who has been criticized for his handling of religious divisions in India and whose presence in Canada is expected to attract protesters.
Mr. Modi has no public events scheduled for Tuesday night after he leaves the Ottawa airport, according to an itinerary from Mr. Harper's office, which was sent to journalists on Tuesday afternoon.
He will meet with Governor-General David Johnston at Rideau Hall on Wednesday morning, and then travel to Parliament Hill a formal welcoming ceremony with Mr. Harper. The two leaders will hold a 40 minute meeting in Mr. Harper's office before addressing the Indian and Canadian media at 11 a.m.
After a working lunch in Ottawa, Mr. Harper and Mr. Modi will fly to Toronto, according to the itinerary from the Prime Minister's Office. They are expected to address a crowd of nearly 10,000 people at Ricoh Coliseum on Wednesday night, a key event that will give both leaders an opportunity to reach out to the Indian diaspora community.
While Mr. Modi is expected to hold meetings with the heads of pension funds, insurance companies and banks on Thursday morning in Toronto, those events are not included in the official itinerary provided by the prime minister's office.
He will also visit an Air India memorial in Etobicoke on Thursday morning, along with Mr. Harper and his wife, Laureen Harper, the itinerary says. He is expected to depart for Vancouver in the early afternoon and will stop at the Gurdwara Khalsa Diwan, a Sikh place of worship in Vancouver, and a Hindu temple in Surrey.
Mr. Modi will also attend an official dinner with Mr. Harper at the Pinnacle Vancouver Harbourfront Hotel.
Some members of the Indo-Canadian community say they plan to protest Mr. Modi at many of his public events. An organization called Sikhs for Justice has called for Mr. Modi to be prosecuted for torture and genocide over his alleged role in religious riots that broke out in Gujarat while he was that state's chief minister. The group says it also expects to see protesters call for a referendum on independence in India's Punjab state, which has a large Sikh population.
A second group, the World Sikh Organization, says it has no plans to protest but hopes Mr. Harper will raise concerns about violence against religious minorities in India, including recent attacks against Christians in that country.