TORONTO: India and Canada are natural allies as the two countries have many things in common such as parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, pluralism and diversity, said Indian Parliament Speaker Meira Kumar here on Saturday.
“Close bonds exist between us as we (both India and Canada) believe in democracy, the rule of law, pluralism and inclusive growth. Believing in the same things binds us,’’ said Meira Kumar speaking at a dinner hosted in her honour by Indian consul general Preeti Saran, the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce and Panorama India.
The Indian Speaker and her delegation were trasiting through Toronto after attending the Inter- Parliamentary Union meeting in Quebec City from Oct 21-26.
The first woman Speaker of the Lok Sabha said increasing exchanges of visits by leaders of the two countries were reflective of deepening India-Canada relations.
She said India attached a huge importance to its relationship with Canada because it was rich in technical knowhow and natural resources and home to a million-strong Indian diaspora.
Meira Kumar highlighted the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Canada for the G-20 summit in Toronto in June 2010 and the signing of various agreements with Canada during that visit.
The upcoming visit of Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper to India from Nov 3-9 will further deepen our ties, she said.
“We are strengthening bilateral relations by frequent visits,’‘ she said, adding that the two countries have complementary interests in areas of energy and food security and infrastructure development which offer huge opportunities for collaboration.
In this context, the Indian Speaker said the Festival of India in Canada and the holding of the IIFA awards in Toronto last year point to the growing closeness between India and Canada in economic and cultural areas.
She said India’s soft diplomacy (Bollywood, music, yoga, cuisine, etc.) has made its impact around the world, and she specifically mentioned how the doorman at a hotel in Quebec City asked her “whether I come from the country of Shahrukh Khan.’’
The Speaker also lauded the success of the Indian diaspora in Canada.
“You came here looking for a golden dream…it is not easy to realize one’s dream in one’s own country, leave alone a foreign land… but that you chose Canada speaks volumes about this country,’’ she said.
She also gave credit to Canada for giving the Indian diaspora `equality and equity’’ in terms of opportunities to realize their dream.
Meira Kumar said India was a complex country to govern because of its huge population, caste divisions, social inequalities, and its many cultures and languages.
But India’s diversity, she said, is its biggest strength, and went on to elaborate how despite the global meltdown – when countries around the world struggled to keep zero growth – India posted an impressive growth rate.
The Speakers’ delegation included M Jagannath, Ravi Shankar Prasad, PS Bajwa, Jose K Mani, Dr Mehboob Beg (MPs), T K Viswanathan, Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha and Shumsher K Sheriff, Secretary-General of the Rajya Sabha.
Indian consul general Preeti Saran highlighted Meira Kumar’s achievements first in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and later in public life and recalled her association with Meira Kumar as her senior in the IFS in the early 1980s.