HYDERABAD, INDIA — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to come calling.
Modi met privately with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan on Wednesday and urged them to get Trudeau to visit India to boost trade.
In a 30-minute discussion at his official residence in New Delhi, the leader of the world’s largest democracy told the two Liberal premiers — who are here on a trade mission — that he’s eager to work with Canada’s new Liberal prime minister.
“He congratulated us on our party’s win (on Oct. 19) . . . he’s very encouraged about the possibilities with the federal government as well,” Wynne told the Star immediately after the meeting.
“(Modi is) very interested in having the prime minister come to India. It’s part of his positive feeling about the election so he’s looking forward to that,” she said.
With Trudeau expected to announce an official visit to India later this year, Wynne is laying the groundwork by leading a large Ontario business delegation.
That Modi took time for a formal meeting with her and MacLauchlan underscores the importance he is placing on relations with Canada.
“I was very appreciative. This is unusual for the prime minister to meet with subnational (government officials). I made the connection (that) he had been a chief minister in (the state of) Gujarat and he understands the importance of subnationals,” said Wynne.
“We have a shared ambition. There’s a sense of urgency from both of us, I would say, on getting moving and putting into practice the things that we know are going to make a difference. That has come from all of his ministers, but it is obviously coming directly from him,” she said, adding the confab focused on “infrastructure, skills development, agriculture, and climate change.”
“These are the things that he’s preoccupied with,” the premier said.
While Modi was not available for comment, he outlined his agenda last Friday at a New Delhi summit also attended by Wynne.
“I’m sure all of us in India will benefit from the experience from other countries,” the Indian prime minister told delegates to the Jan. 29 Global Economic Summit.
“My goal is reform to transform. Opportunity is like oxygen for the aspirational citizen,” said Modi.
“It is said that all politics is local; to me, all economics is global. No country can live alone,” he said.
While Modi is friendly with Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown — and met with him here last month — Wynne said her main political rival’s name didn’t come up.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting was Canadian high commissioner to India Nadir Patel.
The well-regarded Patel is the only senior foreign diplomat in New Delhi who speaks Gujarati, Modi’s native language, which Indian officials say should open doors for Canadians wanting to business here.
Wynne, who flew from New Delhi to Hyderabad on Wednesday night, is in India at a time of great social change.
As Canada’s first openly gay premier, she had generated front-page headlines in some Indian newspapers for her visit to Amritsar’s Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikh faith, earlier this week.
The biggest news here Tuesday was the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to examine the legality of a colonial-era law that treats homosexual relations as a criminal offence.
While homosexuality is technically illegal here — as it was in Canada until 1969 — there are millions of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in India.
News the high court will reconsider the archaic law was greeted by activists as a major step forward for human rights.
“For all the Indian LGBTQ community, this hope in itself is a very big deal,” Vikrant Singh told the Indian Express.
“My boyfriend . . . is being maltreated by his family ever since he opened up about his sexuality to them,” said Singh.
“His father took him to the police station, because we in India treat homosexuality as a crime.”
Such discrimination may persist — some Christian, Hindu, and Muslim groups vowed to fight against any changes to the law.
“Trinity joins hands against gay sex,” screamed a headline in the Mail Today tabloid.
Wynne said the issue was not broached during her talk with Modi.
“Human rights didn’t come up except as we spoke about poverty and education. We didn’t talk about some of those more legal issues, but I have heard him speak and I know that in the broadest sense he’s interested in the best interest of the whole population,” she said.