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Indo-Canadian nuclear agreement in trouble

August 23, 2009 21:46 IST

India and Canada may not be able to sign a civilian nuclear agreement anytime soon as the two countries are yet to 'clear hurdles that would lead to the start of formal negotiations', according to reports in leading Canadian dailies like The Globe and Mail.

The Canadian daily's report contradicts the views  expressed by  International Trade Minister Stockwell Day,  who had stated in May that Canada was 'very close' to a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with India.

After his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in India in January, Day told that he was elated that his meetings with Indian leaders, including Dr Singh and National Security Adviser M K Narayan, have been very productive.
"Canadian companies are well positioned to capitalise on opportunities and to work cooperatively with their Indian counterparts to meet the needs of India's civilian nuclear market," he had said.

The story in the Canadian daily has quoted Day's Press Secretary Melisa Leclerc.

When contacted by on August 22, she responded in an e-mail message, "The (Canadian) reporter got the information from the Department (of Foreign Affairs and International Trade), not (from) me."

Dr Ashok Kapur, professor of political science at the University of Waterloo (Ontario), an expert on nuclear issues, told that, "The story shows there are big differences between  the three Canadian Ministers - International Trade Minister Stockwell Day, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon."

Cannon hasn't spoken on the subject and obviously "he's not providing the leadership or else well-entrenched pro-Non Nuclear Proliferation Treaty bureaucrats in DFAIT won't continue talking against the India-Canadian civilian nuclear agreement," he said.

 "The old view since 1974, when India conducted its first nuclear test, has been that relations with India shouldn't be very close, shouldn't be very friendly, and it should be commensurate with India's position in South Asia and within the framework of South Asia," pointed out Kapur.

Leaders who are opposing the India-Canadian nuclear agreement are ignoring the India-United States civilian nuclear agreement as well as the terms of India's understanding with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers' Group, argues Kapur.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon's silence on the issue is not helping either, says Kapur. "The longer he remains silent on this issue and doesn't provide leadership, the more free hand the Canadian bureaucrats will have.  They now have a greater role to play because it is a minority Conservative government."

Canada's first draft on the civilian nuclear agreement had not been acceptable to India, according to Indian High Commissioner S M Gavai.  "After India submitted a counter-draft, Canadian authorities have submitted another counter draft that has stressed on the NPT and gone beyond America's 123 agreement," claims Kapur. 

When pointed out that the delay in signing the deal with India is costing Canada enormously as the US, Russian and French companies are singing several kinds of deals in the civilian nuclear field, Kapur said, "These Canadian bureaucrats don't care." 

"If DFAIT wanted to give positive signals, cooperative signals, all they had to do was to take all the features of 123 and the India-US civilian nuclear agreement and the IAEA's approval of that agreement and incorporate all those features in the Canada-India draft agreement, but they are going beyond that.  They are inserting new conditions that are impossible for India to accept," Kapur concludes.

Indian High Commissioner Gavai, Canadian Minister Stockwell Day and Parliamentary Secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Deepak Obhrai were not available for comments.

Ajit Jain in Toronto