Canada announces 10-year visas for Indians

Toronto: In a significant gesture, Canada announced a 10-year multiple entry visa for Indians.

Making this announcement at a preliminary session of the fifth Parvasi Bharatiya Divas here, Canadian International Trade Minister and Asia-Pacific Gateway Minister Edward Fast said the new visa regime will boost trade ties between the two countries seeking to triple their trade to $15 billion by 2015.

Later, at the formal opening of the PBD, India Thursday invited the million-strong Indo-Canadian community to become a part of its success story.

Speaking at the opening gala dinner, Preneet Kaur, minister of state for external affairs, said the Indian diaspora has become “an important partner for India’s prosperity” by sending remittances back home, making investments, transferring technical knowhow, and projecting India’s soft power by popularizing its culture, films and dance.

And India is thankful for their services and the creation of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and the Indian Community Welfare Fund as well as the introduction of the PIO/OCI cards were an acknowledgement of their contribution, she said.

Referring to the fast growing India-Canada ties, she said the two prime ministers have nurtured the relationship a new level.

“We have already signed the historic civil nuclear agreement. In the near future, India and Canada will sign the social security agreement, conclude a bilateral investment protection agreement and complete an ambitious comprehensive economic partnership agreement.”

Seeking Canadian partnership in India’s development, she said, “India-Canada ties are developing at a time of enormous opportunities in india. We need $1 trillion in the infrastructure sector over the next decade and foreign investment (and trade) will continue to be an integral part of our growth.”

Greeting the gathering with ‘Namaste,’ Canadian governor general David Johnston lauded the role of the community in nation building and promoting ties with India.

Concluding his speech with ‘dhanyabad,’ the governor general said that by 2017 – when Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary – the Indian diaspora will become one of the strongest groups in Canada, and “their contribution will be so important in our success.”

Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty lauded the diaspora success by quoting prime minister Manmohan Singh who once said that ‘the sun never sets on the Indian diaspora.’

Indian high commissioner S.M. Gavai said India was showing its appreciation of the Indo-Canadian diaspora by holding the PBD in Toronto.

Valayar Ravi, minister of overseas Indian affairs, and three other ministers couldn’t come for the gathering attended by about 500 delegates.

‘Building Bridges: Positioning Strategies for the Indian Diaspora’ is the theme of the two-day gathering. By Gurmukh Singh