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Harper takes off for India, Phillippines and Hong Kong

Boosting trade and investment ties will be on the top of the prime minister’s agenda this week as he begins a longer-than-usual six-day visit to India.

Harper, his wife Laureen, Trade Minister Ed Fast and junior ministers Bal Gosal and Tim Uppal left Ottawa Saturday afternoon.

During the first leg of the flight, Harper invited reporters to a private cabin at the front of the plane to eat some Samosas, an Indian pastry.

The treat was billed as a consolation for reporters who missed the annual Press Gallery Dinner in Ottawa Saturday night.

Harper, who is a fan of spicy cuisine, said he loves Indian food.

The group is scheduled to land in Agra, where it will get an exclusive tour around the Taj Mahal on Monday.

Harper will also visit other historic monuments around the country, includes sites important to the Sikh religion in and around Chandigarh in the Punjab region.

But most of Harper’s visit will centre around trade — Canada is still in negotiations with India for a free-trade and a foreign investment agreement.

He will deliver an opening address at the World Economic Forum’s special event in India later in the week, and will visit the buzzing information technology hub of Bangalore.

India’s booming economy is continuing to grow at nearly six per cent, and the country has a huge appetite for energy to fuel its development.

The two governments would also like to start seeing Canada ship uranium to India, but they haven’t been able to settle on the final conditions.

Following his trip to India, Harper will stop in the Philippines and finally mark Remembrance Day in Hong Kong.