BY RATTAN MALL
INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted a farewell message on his Facebook as he left Canada on Thursday night after attending an official dinner at the Pinnacle Vancouver Harbourfront Hotel.
He wrote: “I leave Canada with immense satisfaction. This visit will further enhance India-Canada ties. A big thanks to the people of Canada.
“A special thanks to PM Stephen Harper – a fine host, a wonderful human being and a very dear friend.”
Indeed, Harper made sure that he accompanied Modi everywhere in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, apparently to take full advantage of exposure to the South Asian community in view of the upcoming federal elections in which he is facing a stiff challenge from federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
Even the Prime Minister’s media machine churned out photo after photo and press releases always highlighting Harper more than Modi.
As The VOICE had exclusively reported on April 4, Harper accompanied Modi to Vancouver’s Ross Street Gurdwara and Surrey’s Laxmi Narayan Temple on Thursday. (The VOICE was also the first to report that Modi would visit Vancouver on April 16 on its website on March 17).
Those who observed Modi in Vancouver claimed that he definitely appeared a bit uncomfortable in stark contrast to his confident and relaxed appearances in Ottawa and Toronto. Perhaps, he was nervous about the angry protests against him organized by a raft of groups on a whole range of issues from his alleged inaction during the 2002 massacre of Muslims in Gujarat (which Modi vehemently denies) to the issue of Sikhs’ farm ownership being threatened in Gujarat and Christians being attacked by rightwing nationalist Hindus.
Or it could have been due to his hectic schedule on Thursday from Toronto to Vancouver and the jet lag.
The VOICE covered Modi’s visit extensively on our website voiceonline.com with constant news and photo updates.
I was also interviewed by a raft of mainstream media including the Globe and Mail, The Wall Street Journal and radio stations in Ottawa.
At the Gurdwara, both Modi and Harper were presented a siropa and a sword by the gurdwara management headed by President Sohan Singh Deo. Both the leaders stood with hands folded in prayer.
Modi, in his address to the gathering at the gurudwara, spoke about the reconstruction of the gurudwara at Lakhpat in Gujarat during his tenure as chief minister.
He said the gurdwara at Lakhpat, where Guru Nanak had stayed for 15 days, had been damaged in the 2001 earthquake and had been reconstructed successfully.
Modi said: “We should fill life with colours of humanity and serve mankind.”
Modi and Harper also visited the Komagata Maru Museum at the gurdwara.
At the Shri Laxmi Narayan Temple in Vancouver, Modi and Harper were presented with shawls and the priest put vermillion marks on their foreheads.
In his remarks at the temple, Modi thanked the Canadian prime minister and the people of Canada for the warm welcome and hospitality they had accorded him.
He said the Supreme Court of India had described Hinduism as a way of life.
He exhorted the gathering to live life scientifically, in balance with nature, and with compassion.
Modi said the United Nations recently adopted June 21 as the International Day of Yoga with 177 countries co-sponsoring India’s resolution.
The prime minister said Yoga had great potential to help the world overcome the stress of modern life, and urged people to spread this message.
MORE PHOTOS OF MODI’S VISIT TO VANCOUVER: