Foreign Policy Blogs

Will Canada & India announce a nuclear deal?

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet with his Indian counterpart next week to help boost Indo-Canadian relations that have been “cool” for more than three decades. Relations between the two countries declined after India indirectly used Canadian nuclear technology for its first nuclear tests in 1974. Thereafter it has build six Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) modeled after the Canadian reactors.

Relations changed when last year Canada voted in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) to end the nuclear trade moratorium on India. This was a turning point in Indo-Canadian relations which might open avenues for economic and nuclear cooperation. The current visit is intended to revive the bilateral relationship based on shared principals of democracy and pluralism. The Vancouver Sun reports, “Harper’s advisers say the trip is designed to ring in “a new era of partnership” between the two countries and, in a background briefing with reporters earlier this week, argued that the trip was about much more than AECL, that its purpose was to develop a comprehensive and holistic relationship with India which, with 1.2 billion people, is the world’s largest democracy.”

Though economic cooperation is an important aspect of improving relations, some form of a nuclear agreement is speculated to be in the making. According to the Globe and Mail, “the signature piece of the trip is supposed to be a civilian nuclear agreement, which has existed in draft form since the summer. The accord would mirror similar deals reached by the United States, France and, mere days ago, the European Union.” The Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. (AECL) CEO and officials from Cameco, “the uranium miner with significant operations in Saskatchewan” will also be present during the Prime Minister’s visit to New Delhi.

While nuclear cooperation is important for India’s growing energy needs, the Indian side should not overlook the importance of potential Canadian investments in businesses and infrastructure. Trade relations between the two amount to a meager (approx) $4.5 billion and there is tremendous potential for growth. Investments in energy (other than nuclear), science, information technology, telecommunications and other service industries should be explored. Higher education is also a potential candidate for strengthening relations and increasing awareness about each other. Ryan M. Touhey writes that in spite of Indians forming the biggest group of immigrants in Canada, ignorance about India is significant. “In 1960, the Canadian High Commissioner to India, Chester Ronning, curtly noted that while public relations between both countries were friendly it was a friendship based on ignorance, rather than knowledge. Ronning’s words continue to resonate today in terms of how both countries interact.” Neither India nor Canada can expect to build businesses or relationships without proper knowledge about the other. This situation needs to be rectified immediately.

The three day visit next week will most definitely pave the way for increased economic cooperation. But if a nuclear deal is announced it would be a significant step in bilateral relations. It might be another deal in the bag for India, but a significant advantage for Canada over the uranium rich Australia still indecisive about nuclear trade with India.



Manasi Kakatkar-Kulkarni

Manasi Kakatkar-Kulkarni graduated from the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. She received her degree in International Security and Economic Policy and interned with the Arms Control Association, Washington, D.C. She is particularly interested in matters of international arms control, nuclear non-proliferation and India’s relations with its neighbors across Asia. She currently works with the US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC).