After diplomatic engagements and clinching the nuclear deal with Canada, it was time for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to do a bit of soft diplomacy and connect with the Sikhs and Hindus in the North American country, home to 1.2 million persons of Indian origin.
Mr Modi enthralled the Indian expat community in his eloquent address at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum on April 16, and inspired them to join in his mission of nation building. The last day of his trip to Canada, the first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister in over four decades, was focused on outreach to the Indian community.
In a tribute to contribution of the Indian diaspora to their adopted homeland, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined Mr Modi in offering prayers at Gurudwwara Khalsa Diwan and Laxmi Narayan Temple in Vancouver.
After their arrival in Vancouver, they headed straight to the Sikh temple, where a huge crowd of supporters had gathered to welcome them. Mr Modi lavished praise on the Sikhs in Canada, saying they had won respect for India with their work. He also spoke about the teachings of Guru Nanak and the role played by Sikhs in India’s independence, and their myriad sacrifices, He specially mentioned the revolutionary and freedom-fighter Bhagat Singh.
“The Sikh community came here as farmers, has worked hard and has earned the respect of the people of Canada. India is respected in Canada and this is due to your efforts. Wherever we are, let us do things that bring pride to our nation,” said Mr Modi.
At the Laxmi Narayan Temple, Mr Modi emphasised the need to work for humanity through Hinduism. He said the Hindu religion has worked for the benefit for the nature, including wildlife, through the scientific way of life. Trying to encapsulate the ethos of Hinduism, Mr Modi alluded to a recent Supreme Court judgment. “The Supreme Court in India has given a nice definition to ‘Hindu dharam’… The Supreme Court has said that Hindu dharam is not a religion but a way of life… I believe the SC’s definition shows the way.”
The prime minister praised the UN for declaring June 21 as the International Yoga Day. He asked the Indian diaspora to spread yoga and underlined its numerous benefits for humanity. After his visit to Vancouver, he attended an official dinner hosted by Mr Harper and left for India.
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