Civil nuke cooperation announcement a testimony to India, Canada's undeniable potential: Harper

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Port of Spain, Nov.29 (ANI): Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Saturday announced the conclusion of negotiations on a nuclear cooperation agreement between Canada and India, and described it as another step forward in strengthening the bonds between Ottawa and New Delhi.

The announcement of the conclusion of the negotiations on a nuclear cooperation agreement between Indian and Canadian officials on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) being held here, was made after a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

In going ahead with the formalisation of the agreement to the media here, Harper said: "When I was in India, Prime Minister Singh and I had discussion on many things, including the nuclear cooperation agreement. This is very close to completion."

"Prime Minister and I agreed that it should be brought to conclusion very rapidly. Our officers have met and thanks to Prime Minister Singh's leadership, we have got an agreement between our two countries. This is a tremendous development," he added .

"This is a tremendous opportunity for both countries. Canada is an integrated supporter of nuclear energy fuel and India, as an expanding economy, has great energy needs. We will be taking time to complete the ratification process. This is a tremendous step, " he further said.

In his response, Prime Minister Singh said: "When Mr. Harper was in India, we wanted to work out an international civilian nuclear power agreement. India needs nuclear energy, and for our economic development, we need a lot more energy if we have to make a success of our development process."

"Prime Minister Harper had discussed this with us when he was in India and he has proven true to his words and the process has been completed in a short period of eleven days. This agreement augurs extremely well for the development of relations between our two countries," he added.

"India and Canada have been partners, we have a large community in Canada. The Canada India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement is a very important step in our relationship. I thank Prime Minister Harper from the core of my heart for having expedited this process," Dr. Singh further said.

Harper said the announcement is an indication of the undeniable potential that both can offer to each other and the rest of the world.

"This agreement is a testimony to the undeniable potential that Canada and India can offer each other and the world," he said.

He said Canada and India will now take necessary steps to prepare the agreement for final signature and implementation.

"Canada is committed to forging stronger trade, investment and educational ties with India. This agreement will allow Canadian firms to export and import controlled nuclear materials, equipment and technology to and from India," he added.

"Increased collaboration with India's civilian nuclear energy market will allow Canadian companies to benefit from greater access to one of the world's largest and fastest expanding economies," he said.

Harper, whose minority conservative government is courting and seeking the support of Indian-Canadian voters back at home, however, declined to release the text of the civil nuclear cooperation deal, saying this would be done after it was tabled and approved by the Canadian Parliament.

The Harper government would require the support of one opposition party to pass the agreement.

The deal will allow Canadian companies to resume sales of uranium and nuclear technology to India for the first time since it used Canada's technology to develop warheads 35 years ago.

Canada was furious when India developed a nuclear-weapons program in 1974 by misappropriating Canadian nuclear reactor technology.

India's civilian nuclear energy market could be worth anywhere from 25 billion dollars and 50 billion dollars in business opportunities over the next 20 years.

According to the Globe and Mail, over the past two years, both countries have been attempting to improve their relations, primarily because more than a million Canadians are of Indian ancestry.

There have been 11 ministerial visits to India over the past two-and-a-half-years, including five in 2009.

Former U.S. president George W. Bush negotiated an agreement in which India separated its civilian and military nuclear programs, subjecting the former to the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency. France followed suit, and already has a contract to provide India with two new reactors. Canada wants to tap this market as well.

India and China are the two big markets for nuclear-energy technology, with dozens of new reactors planned or under construction.

If Canada wants to have any hope of keeping its nuclear-energy industry alive, it must reach civilian nuclear agreements with both countries.

There is talk in Ottawa that Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. could enter into technology, marketing or even ownership partnerships with their Indian counterparts.

Canada's nuclear-energy industry generates approximately 6.6 billion dollars in annual revenue, 1.2 billion dollars in exports each year and employs approximately 31,000 people. By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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