New clear ways

India is recognised as a responsible nuclear power.

While the visiting Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper’s talks with Indian leaders,  including prime minister Manmohan Singh, covered all aspects of bilateral relations, the most important outcome was the agreement paving the way for Canadian firms to export uranium and sell nuclear reactors to India. Canada was among the first countries to set up nuclear reactors in India but the relationship broke down after that country imposed a moratorium on nuclear sales to India on suspicion that plutonium from its reactor was diverted for India’s first nuclear explosion in 1974. But the situation is very different now, as  India, even without signing the NPT, has proved its credentials as a responsible nuclear power. The IAEA-approved civil nuclear agreement with the US in 2005 also helped to clear  hurdles. India’s growing economic clout and its ambitious nuclear energy programme were  attractions and so, as in case of Australia, commercial considerations also played a role in the decision to resume nuclear co-operation.

Canada, like Australia, has large uranium reserves and can help to meet India’s growing future needs. As Harper noted,  the resolution of the issues concerning nuclear co-operation will help Canada’s economy also in terms of growth and jobs. The ground work for nuclear co-operation was laid in an agreement signed two years ago, and the Appropriate Arrangement signed this week has taken it forward by resolving some outstanding issues. It will still take some time for full implementation of the understanding reached now, but  nuclear partnership will be a reality in the near future. It is possible that the latest agreement may cover not only uranium sales to India but also import of nuclear reactors from Canadian companies.

There are other matters of interest also in the relations between the two countries.  Canada has welcomed Indian investment in its resources sector, especially petroleum, and India has sought investment from that country in infrastructure and food sectors. India imports about 40 per cent of its pulses requirements from Canada. Identification of areas of mutual interest and developing co-operation can only be beneficial to both countries. A comprehensive economic co-operation agreement between the two countries is likely to be signed next year. India has concerns over the activities of some Sikh extremists in that country but Harper has taken pains to allay New Delhi’s apprehensions in this regard. Both countries have open and democratic societies and the commonality of values can further strengthen the relations.

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