It is widely rumored that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will include Canada on the list of visa-on-arrival program. President of the National Alliance of Indo-Canadians Azad Kaushik who held a seminar to discuss the issue last year in Mississauga says that the participants submitted a memo to Indian Consul-General Mr Akhilesh Mishra. There is widespread disappointment among the South Asian diaspora about Canada not being included in the list of 43 countries. According to a member of Overseas Friends of the BJP Canada on condition of anonymity, the reason had to do with security and a fringe group of anti-Indian individuals. Security concerns is also the reason why there have been very few details about PM Modi’s itinerary. Even the organizing committee here was kept in the dark until a few days ago which is why they held a hastily organized press meet with the ethnic media to share their plans for Modi’s visit to Toronto.
Prominent member of the National Alliance of Indo-Canadians Kasi Rao is buoyed by PM Modi’s visit to Canada not just because the an expected announcement about the visa-on-arrival, but because it represents a major shift in Indo-Canada bilateral and trade relations. “The visit offers Indo-Canadians the opportunity to bring ideas to the table, contribute to the synergy between the two nations. A bilateral visit like this is just not about trade, it is also a cultural exchange and brings the two countries even closer than ever,” he said.
Many of these initiatives are expected to be touched upon when PM Modi takes the stage at Ricoh Coliseum on April 15th. Vijay Chauthaiwale, a liason for the BJP Foreign Cell has been in Toronto for the past ten days communicating and coordinating the planning between New Delhi and Canada. “Mr Modi doesn’t have speech writers, he will deliver his speech extempore,” he said.
Organizers have been importuned for tickets by hundreds of South Asians but they have no choice but to regretfully inform them that they are out of tickets. Mr Kasi Rao, in-charge of Media and Communication said that 10,000 tickets were in the process of being sent out. “Each one will have a name and will not be transferable. Security will be very strict and all invitees will soon get an email listing all the things they can and cannot bring into Ricoh Coliseum.
Vijay Chauthaiwale said many lessons were learnt following PM Modi’s speech at Madison Square last September. Although security was tight and most invitees had their tickets checked against their ID, approximately 3000 managed to get past security without being ID’d. That security breach isn’t expected to happen in Toronto.
According to Anil Shingre, PM security head for the National Alliance of Indo-Canadians, gates will open at 3.30, invitees will have to produce two bits of ID, cameras and cellphones will be permitted, but no bottled water or food will be permitted. “We will be providing cups and water and the decision on whether to provide free or subsidized snacks will be taken soon. Since we don’t know exactly what time PM Narendra Modi and PM Stephen Harper are expected to arrive, we have planned for two hours of entertainment,” he said.
Indian PM Modi is expected to arrive in Ottawa on 14th April and it will fly to Toronto for the only public engagement in Toronto the next day.
Meanwhile several demonstrations are expected to be held outside the venue by some organizations but one hopes that the intensity of those demonstrations won’t have any effect on PM Modi’s expected announcement about granting Canadians visa-on-arrival.