Canada, India resolve dispute over two-year-old nuclear cooperation agreement

New Delhi, Nov.6: Canada and India on Tuesday agreed to resolve a dispute over how to implement a two-year-old nuclear co-operation agreement that will see Canadian uranium exported to India for the production of energy.

A joint statement issued here after delegation-level talks between the two sides said that the two governments are committed to promoting greater trade and investment with India, and added that the latest nuclear deal would help Canadian companies “play a greater role in meeting India’s growing energy needs.”

According to Canadian dailies such as the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald, Canada and India have been haggling over “administrative” arrangements on a nuclear deal that was first announced with great fanfare by Prime Ministers Stephen Harper and Dr. Manmohan Singh in Toronto in 2010.

That nuclear co-operation agreement comes after decades of distrust sparked by India’s use of Canadian nuclear technology for a weapons test in 1974 in Pokhran, Rajasthan.

When the nuclear accord was reached in 2010, it was then felt that Canada would sell its uranium and build reactors in India.

But the issue got mired in negotiations over the details. Canada insisted that it wanted India to provide information in future to demonstrate that Canadian nuclear materials are used for peaceful purposes – not for further nuclear weapons proliferation.

India balked at this request, saying it wants to work through the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Under the administrative deal reached by negotiators, both countries will establish a “joint committee” to share information.

It was initially unclear Tuesday what led Canadian and Indian negotiators to end the impasse in their negotiations – and whether Canada or India gave up more to conclude the talks.

In today’s joint statement, Harper and Singh described their countries as “leaders” in nuclear technology and services, and added that both would develop “mutually beneficial partnerships in this regard.”

They also “recognized that Canada, with its large and high-quality reserves of uranium, could become an important supplier to India’s nuclear power programme.”

They said the deal will now come into effect at an “early” date in the future, although there are no specifics on timing.

Harper’s office distributed a written statement by Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission President Michael Binder, who said he was “pleased” that negotiations with India were now complete.

“This is an important milestone,” he added.

“The arrangement will also ensure that the appropriate oversight is exercised with respect to the information required by Canada. Through this arrangement, Canada will receive the necessary assurances on the peaceful use of Canadian exports to India of nuclear material, equipment and technology, equivalent to arrangements with other countries,” the joint statement said.

Harper’s office said the newly negotiated administrative arrangement “will allow Canadian firms to export and import controlled nuclear materials, equipment and technology to and from India to facilities under safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”

Moreover, the Canadian Government said the deal will meet international treaty requirements that “nuclear material, equipment and technology originating in Canada will be used only for civilian and peaceful applications.”

However, there are still steps to take before Canadian companies begin exporting uranium, but the government described them as formalities.

It said the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and India’s Department of Atomic Energy will “formally” sign on and both governments will move ahead with the nuclear deal “in a timely manner.”

Also Tuesday, the two countries announced a social security agreement that benefits their citizens who temporarily work in either nation. For instance, Canadians working temporarily in India will continue to contribute to the Canada Pension Pan but be exempt from contributing to India’s own Employees Pension Scheme. (ANI with inputs)