by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Nov 6, 2012
Canada and India on Tuesday clinched a deal opening the door to Canadian exports of uranium and other nuclear supplies to the energy-hungry South Asian nation for the first time in nearly four decades.
The agreement during an official visit by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper came after Indian and Canadian negotiators ironed out a deadlock over monitoring Canadian exports of nuclear materials and technology to India.
The pact will allow implementation of the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement signed by the countries in 2010 and help Canadian companies "play a greater role in meeting India's growing energy needs," Harper said in a statement.
The announcement that will allow Canadian uranium to be used to power Indian reactors ends close to 40 years of awkward relations after India used Canadian nuclear technology to build its first atomic bomb.
The nuclear cooperation deal agreed two years ago by Harper and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Toronto was supposed to pave the way for exports of Canadian uranium and reactors to India.
But the two nations could not agree on how to track India's use of nuclear material to ensure it was put to peaceful purposes. New Delhi baulked at Ottawa's demand to be allowed to monitor the safe use of its nuclear exports.
Now the two countries will set up a joint panel to supervise the exports.
Singh and Harper said in a late evening statement they looked forward "to the inaugural meeting of the joint committee".
"The governments of Canada and India will take the necessary steps to bring the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement into force in a timely manner," the statement added, without specifying a date.
New Delhi -- backed by the United States -- won an exemption in 2008 from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which governs global nuclear trade, to allow it to buy reactors and fuel from abroad -- even though it has not signed the non-proliferation treaty.
India, which has tense relations with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan, had been subject to a global embargo since 1974 when it first staged an atomic weapons test.
"Canada with its large and high quality reserves of uranium could become an important supplier to the Indian nuclear power programme", Singh and Harper said in the joint statement.
Canada earns $1 billion a year in uranium exports. It has been moving to step up exports, signing an agreement in July with Beijing to help Canadian companies sell more uranium to China.
Harper added the agreement should spur "millions of dollars in new business contacts between our countries and create high-quality new jobs" in Canada.
India is heavily dependent on coal and produces less than three percent of its energy from its existing atomic plants. The government hopes to raise the figure to 25 percent by 2050.
Aside from the United States, New Delhi has atomic deals with such countries as France and Russia. Last month, visiting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard agreed to open negotiations to export uranium nuclear fuel to India.
India used plutonium from a Canadian reactor to start developing its nuclear arms program in the early 1970s.
In an interview with Canada's Postmedia News ahead of his trip, Harper said it was time to "turn the page" on relations and that Ottawa could not "be stuck in the 1970s" in its relations with one of Asia's largest economies.
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