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Rediff.com  » News » Indo-Canadian nuke deal won't be signed during Harper's visit

Indo-Canadian nuke deal won't be signed during Harper's visit

November 13, 2009 13:19 IST

Ajit Jain, rediff India Abroad Managing Editor, Canada, who is traveling with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his first-ever visit to India, reports on the future course of the civilian nuclear deal that is underway between the two countries.

As Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits India from November 15 to 18, speculation runs high over whether India and Canada will clinch the much-talked-about nuclear deal. Harper is currently en route to Singapore from Ottawa, after which he will visit India.

The one question that buzzed among all reporters, who are accompanying Harper on his visit to strengthen bilateral ties, was about the outcome of this visit. 

According to a front-page story in Canadian daily Globe and Mail, a civilian nuclear agreement between India and Canada will be a reality in the near future.

'It will be signed soon' and that is because 'Canada needs India more than India needs Canada', the daily said.

'The fact remains that Canada's hand is weak and India's strong. India and China are two big markets for nuclear energy technology with dozens of new reactors being planned or under construction,' said the daily's senior columnist John Ibbitson, who was among the 20-odd Canadian journalists aboard Harper's Airbus, which was on its way to Singapore from Ottawa on November 12.

Ibbitson refused to comment on his column, and was keener on listening to the views of other reporters as they gathered at Hangar 11 in Ottawa Airport before their departure with Harper.

However, all journalists aboard the flight did agree on one fact -- India and Canada still had a couple of differences in regard to the nuclear deal that needed to be sorted out.

Despite the progress made by the two nations in the last few months over the deal, the final agreement may not be signed during Harper's impending visit to New Delhi, predicted mediapersons.

However, there seems to have been little change in the status of the few "minor" differences over the deal, which was first suggested in November 2008.

In January, International Trade Minister Stockwell Day had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Indian National Security Advisor M K Narayanan in New Delhi. On his return, Day sounded optimistic as he said the deal would be signed very soon and that there were only a few minor issues that needed clarification.

Nine months later, Day was again in India in October, to open the Canadian government's eighth trade office in Ahmedabad.

He had then told rediff.com that an Indian nuclear delegation had been in Ottawa a few days ago and that there still were "three to four minor issues" that needed to be sorted out.

The stakes are high for Canada over the deal, which faces stiff competition in tapping India's nuclear market.

Despite differences over the deal, Canadian officials and journalists believe that Harper and Singh will meet in a positive climate and the visit will further strengthen relations between the two countries.

"With India, we are going in the same direction as our relations with the US and the UK," said Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to Cananda's foreign affairs minister.

"Of course the two economies -- Canada and India -- are not linked as the Canada-US economies are."

But that apart, the two countries today are on the best of terms, he said.
Ajit Jain On board the Canadian PM's aircraft