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‘Canada to focus on free trade pact with India’


Toronto : Calling his country’s backing for India in getting the waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) last week a “turning point” in bilateral ties, Canadian foreign affairs parliamentary secretary Deepak Obhrai has said his country will now focus on a free trade agreement with New Delhi.

Canada broke its 34-year-old freeze on nuclear trade with India by not opposing the NSG waiver which allows India to resume nuclear trade after the 1974 Pokhran explosion.

“Immediately after taking over in January 2006, our government committed itself to raising the level of our relationship with India which is emerging as a major power. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made India a priority nation for upgrading ties, and delivered on his promise,” Obhrai told IANS Monday.

Blaming the previous Liberal Party government for isolating India, he said: “Former Liberal party prime minister Jean Chretien and his foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy froze relationship with India after the 1998 nuclear blasts by New Delhi.

“Under the previous government, Canada lost a lot of time even as other countries courted India because of its booming economy. Immediately after taking over, my prime minister listed India as an important country for us.

“Thanks to our efforts, the two-way trade is going up very fast. The two nations have already concluded an agreement to safeguard investments, and we are now focused on having a free trade agreement with India.”

With opinion polls showing his party is favoured to win next month’s general election, Obhrai said: “Once we resume office after the polls, we will speed up the process of bringing Canada and India closer. Hopefully, our two prime ministers will visit each other’s country soon to speed up this process.”