October 15, 2014

India, Canada clinch nuclear deal in record time

Canada and India are negotiating commercial contracts for supply of uranium for Indian nuclear reactors. "The nuclear agreement starts a new chapter in relations with India," said John Baird, Canada's foreign minister in an exclusive conversation with TOI.

Baird is in Delhi for the second round of strategic dialogue he held with Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday.

The restart of nuclear cooperation with Canada has been a long journey for both countries. Therefore it was a pleasant surprise to nuclear watchers here when India and Canada concluded their nuclear deal in virtually record time. The India-US deal still remains unconsummated and it will be a while before all the procedures are completed on the India-Australia front.

Canada expressing support for Indian membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The two countries plan to cooperate on building higher capacity nuclear reactors. Indian reactors are based on the CANDU model. The DAE wants to upgrade Indian nuclear reactors from their current capacity of 200MW to 750MW, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said as he brief on the discussions.

As a result of the conversations between Baird and Swaraj, the two countries will do some joint development. They will also joint host a nuclear security workshop in India with some 15 countries, the first such meet India would be organizing with another country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have his first meeting with his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, in Brisbane on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. Baird said, "I was very pleased to extend an invitation from Prime Minister Harper to Mr Modi to visit Canada as early as possible. I should add I had the pleasure of inviting him to Canada years ago, and we've never had any visa problems. We have had numerous ministers and parliamentarians who have visited him in Gujarat."

The Khalistan issue is never far from India-Canada discussions. "Canada and India share a painful past when it comes to terrorism," Baird said. "When I was in high school one of the victims of the Air India crash was a fellow student. So it's a personal experience when I was very young. Terrorism is the great struggle of our generation from the Air India crash through 9/11 to what we are seeing today in Iraq."

Skill development is something the Indian government is tapping Canada for. Akbaruddin said this would be mainly in the hydrocarbon and water management sectors.

Baird said, "We are excited about being a reliable supplier of oil and gas and helping India attain its development goals. Canadian companies have a lot of experience in green energy, and we hope they can lend their expertise to the new government as it seeks to tackle its challenges."

Earlier, the Canadian foreign minister met Modi. A statement from the PMO said, "The Prime Minister welcomed close cooperation between India and Canada and expressed satisfaction at comprehensive nature of bilateral ties, including in areas of economic cooperation, agriculture, security, civil nuclear energy, education, and science and technology." 

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