Harper India Visit: Motorcade Includes 2 Armoured Vehicles Shipped From Canada

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STEPHEN HARPER CAR
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's limo with Ontario plates is pictured in New Dehli, India on Monday, November 5, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick | CP

NEW DELHI - Two armoured cars were shipped to India from Canada to shuttle Prime Minister Stephen Harper around during a six-day, four-city tour this week.

The move is an unusual one for a Canadian prime minister. Harper has only brought his own transportation to two other nations — Haiti and Afghanistan.

The president of the United States routinely travels abroad with a custom-armoured state car, known as "the Beast" or "Cadillac One."

A black sport-utility vehicle and a black luxury sedan carrying Ontario plates appeared in the motorcade when Harper arrived Sunday evening.

Harper would normally have been travelling in the ubiquitous Hindustan Motors Ambassador car, a vintage-looking white sedan.

His director of communications Andrew MacDougall referred all questions about the armoured vehicles to the RCMP, saying the Mounties — not the Prime Minister's Office —make the decisions about security at home and abroad.

But the RCMP was not saying much about the decision to ship over the cars. There was no immediate information about how the vehicles were transported to India and at what cost.

"The deployment of RCMP resources are dictated by operational requirements, including public and officer safety considerations, and a threat assessment of the events/environments," media relations officer Cpl. Lucy Shorey said in an emailed statement.

"For security reasons, details on the security plans will not be discussed."

The issue was raised in the House of Commons, where New Democrat Peggy Nash demanded to know: "How much is it costing to send the prime minister's personal limousines to the Taj Mahal?"

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said it was the RCMP that made the call: "I trust their judgment."

India has a history of terrorist attacks and political assassinations — including that of its own prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. In 2008, a series of attacks on a number of locations in Mumbai, including a luxury hotel, killed 166 people.

Regardless of the prime minister's travel locale, Harper's personal security appears to have been tightened recently.

Trick-or-treating children visiting the prime minister's residence at 24 Sussex Drive this year for the first time had to pass through metal detectors and leave props such as plastic swords on a table at the end of the driveway.

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