India and Canada on Monday signed a landmark civil nuclear deal with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assuring that imported uranium and atomic technology will not be used for “any unintended purpose.”
Singh said the nuclear cooperation pact “breaks new grounds” in the history of Indo-Canadian cooperation in the atomic sector while his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper called it a good agreement because “we cannot live in the past of 1970s”.
The agreement will enable India to import Canadian atomic equipment and technology and secure uranium by providing the Canadian nuclear industry access to the expanding multi-billion dollar Indian nuclear market. The possibility of having joint ventures will also be explored.
The agreement which was signed in the presence of Singh and Harper came 36 years after Canada slapped sanctions on India for testing an atomic bomb in 1974.
Canada is the eighth nation to reach a civil nuclear deal with India since the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group,a cartel which trades in nuclear fuel,equipment and technology,lifted a 34-year ban on India in 2008. US,France and Russia are among the countries with which India has civil nuclear pacts.
“We have complete civilian control and there is no scope whatsoever for any nuclear material or equipment being supplied going for any unintended purpose,” Singh told a joint press conference with Harper after the agreement was signed by Srikumar Banerjee,Secretary,Department of Atomic Energy and host Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon.
“Nuclear material supplied to India will be fully safeguarded in terms of agreement signed with IAEA. We have fool-proof system of export controls,” Singh said responding to a question whether there were enough safeguards to prevent nuclear material coming to India under such agreements being used for any weapons programme.
Singh the first Indian Head of the Government to visit Canada after I K Gujral’s trip here 16 years ago,said the agreement “breaks new grounds” in the history of bilateral cooperation in the sector.
“It reflects the change in International realities and will open new doors for mutually beneficial cooperation in nuclear technology,” he added.
In an apparent reference to sanctions imposed by Canada on India after the Pokhran-I and Pokhran-II atomic tests in 1974 and 1998,Harper said his country cannot live in the past.
“We cannot live as a country in 1970s. We have got assurances of safeguards in place in relation to the nuclear cooperation which is bigger than in the past. India is very important in the future. It shares with us many ideals,” he said.
A joint statement issued at the end of the Singh-Harper meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit said the two Prime Ministers committed themselves to the ratification of the nuclear agreement and completion of all remaining steps necessary to ensure its early implementation.
The two leaders also strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and agreed to direct their respective governments toward greater cooperation in counter-terrorism and security related matters.
Singh also made it clear to Canada and the Sikh community that the Canadian soil should not be allowed to be used for promoting extremism against India and hoped the government here was “alive to what is happening”.