India, Canada agree on historic n-deal (Second Lead)

Port of Spain, Nov 29 ( India and Canada have agreed on a civil nuclear deal that will enable New Delhi to access Canadian nuclear technology and uranium after a gap of 34 years. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the development “augurs extremely well” for the ties between the nations.

The deal is likely to be signed when Manmohan Singh goes to Canada to attend the G20 summit in June next year. The breakthrough was announced here Saturday after Manmohan Singh held talks with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at this Trinidad and Tobago capital.

“We have now got an agreement which means this is a tremendous opportunity for both countries,” Harper said here while underlining that it was “a tremendous step forward” in bilateral relations.

“Canada is a supplier, obviously an integrated supplier in the nuclear energy field, and India is an expanding economy that has great energy needs,” Harper said.

The nuclear agreement promises to transform bilateral ties that turned frosty ever since Ottawa cut off atomic trade after New Delhi’s 1974 nuclear test and accused the latter of misappropriating Canadian reactor designs in the test.

Harper’s visit to India earlier this month was to iron out the official differences in the conclusion of the deal that allows India access to nuclear material and technology without being a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Harper, however, added that it will take “a little time to complete the normal legal text and the ratification process”.

If this deal is inked, Canada will become the seventh country with which India has struck civil nuclear pacts since the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) allowed India to resume global nuclear trade in September 2008.

India has already signed bilateral civil nuclear agreements with the US, France, Russia, Kazakhstan, Namibia and Mongolia.

Lauding Harper for giving a political push to the negotiations, Manmohan Singh said: “This is a tribute to the prime minister’s great leadership and the way the civil service functions in Canada.”

“It augurs extremely well for the development of our relations,” he added.

The Conservative government of Harper has, however, not released the text of the India-Canada deal, saying it would only be released when implementing legislation is tabled in parliament. The minority government will require the support of parliament members from one opposition party in order to pass the agreement.

The two sides were close to a civil nuclear deal when Harper came to New Delhi last week, but could not conclude the pact as there were lingering differences over the nature of safeguards.

“Prime Minister Harper proved to be absolutely true to his words when he told me he will have this matter looked into and that this exercise could be completed in a short period of eight to ten days,” Manmohan Singh said.

The deal will remove the last irritant in the way of stronger political, economic and strategic ties between the two countries. The two countries have declared their resolve to triple bilateral trade from around $5 billion to $15 billion in the next five years.