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India to seek Canada’s support in NSG

By Manish Chand, IANS

New Delhi : India will seek Canada’s support for the India-US nuclear deal at the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) when Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier meets his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee Saturday.

Bernier, who comes to India on his maiden visit Thursday night from Riyadh, will hold talks with Mukherjee on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including the nuclear deal, economic ties and the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“The nuclear issue will be discussed during the talks,” an official source told IANS.

National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan will take up with him the issue of civil nuclear cooperation Friday. The nuclear issue will figure prominently in his discussions Saturday with Shyam Saran, the prime minister’s special envoy on the India-US nuclear deal, the source said.

Last year, Canada said it was considering exemption for India from the NSG guidelines that will allow it to import nuclear material and technology under the India-US nuclear deal.

“Canada is considering the proposed exemption for India from the NSG guidelines in accordance with Canadian interests and principles,” Bernard Nguyen, a spokesperson at the foreign affairs department, had said in October.

But in a delicate balancing exercise, he also underlined that Canada had yet to decide on a rethink on its decision to sever nuclear ties with India, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), after New Delhi conducted its first nuclear test in 1974.

“Canada’s current nuclear non-proliferation policy and multilateral commitments prohibit nuclear cooperation with India at this time,” Nguyen said with an eye on the domestic constituency of nuclear hawks.

Given Washington’s close ties with Ottawa, Washington would expect its support at the NSG for the nuclear deal, which it has hailed as the centrepiece of its transformed relations with India.

Canada was the first nation to impose a nuclear embargo against India in 1976. According to Canada, India’s 1974 nuclear test device allegedly used plutonium produced in the Canadian-supplied CIRUS reactor.

Canada refused to buy India’s explanation that the 1974 test was a “peaceful nuclear explosion” and cut off nuclear cooperation with New Delhi.

However, the emergence of India as an economic power and global player could lead Canada to shed its reservations on civil nuclear commerce with New Delhi.

The economics of nuclear business will certainly weigh in India’s favour as Canada’s well-equipped nuclear industry is already subtly lobbying the Canadian government to allow it to cash in on billion-dollar opportunities that will flow from the opening of the Indian nuclear market.

Ottawa, however, may press for a hard bargain in return for its support to India in the NSG.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has identified several focus areas for expanding bilateral relationship, including trade and investment, implementation of science and technology agreement, cooperation in environmental technology and also in counter-terrorism and migration issues.