Toronto: Breaking new grounds in their bilateral relationship, India and Canada today signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement and strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the first Indian Head of the Government to visit Canada after IK Gujral’s trip to Canada 16 years ago, and his counterpart Stephen Harper hailed the signature of the nuclear agreement after their one-on-one and delegation level talks that will provide for cooperation in civil nuclear energy including import of uranium and equipment from Canada.
The civil nuclear agreement was signed by Srikumar Banerjee, Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy and Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon in the presence of the two Prime Ministers.
The deal also envisages cooperation in fields of nuclear waste management and radiation safety. The agreement assumes significance in the context of Canada’s strong attitude in the past when it slaped sanctions against India after the Pokhran I and II tests in 1974 and 1998.
A joint statement issued at the end of the meeting said the two Prime Ministers committed themselves to the ratification of the agreement and completion of all remaining steps necessary to ensure its early implementation.
They underscored the potential for mutually beneficial civil nuclear cooperation and trade.
The two Prime Ministers solemnly observed the occasion of the 25th anniversary of bombing of Air India flight 182 ‘Kanishka’ on June 23, 1985 that killed 329 people on board.
Only a few days Harper apologised to the families of the victims of the disaster for “institutional failures” of the government and promised some form of compensation to them.
In his remarks to the media, the Prime Minister made a reference to his Canada visit coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the Kanishka aircrash.
“This terrible disaster and the suffering it has led to will forever remain a stark reminder of the need for all of us to work unitedly to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. The victims of this tragedy deserve full justice,” he said.
At a joint interaction with the media in the company of Harper, Singh said that civil nuclear cooperation agreement that the two countries have signed “breaks new grounds” in the history of bilateral cooperation in the sector.
“It reflects the change in International realities and will open new doors for mutually beneficial cooperation in nuclear technology,” he said.
The two leaders, in the joint statement, strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and agreed to direct their respective governments toward greater cooperation in counter-terrorism and security related matters.
Reiterating the need for intensifying global cooperation in combating international terrorism, they called for an early conclusion and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism within the UN framework.
Singh said he and Harper have today added fresh vitality and content to bilateral cooperation.
“We have identified renewable energy, clean technologies, and energy efficiency as other priority areas of cooperation. The newly-constituted Canada-India Energy Forum has already begun its work and has our full support. We have also decided to focus on mining and agriculture as the other priority areas of cooperation,” he said.
The Indian Prime Minister said that two countries have reaffirmed their resolved to achieve the annual bilateral trade target of $ 15 billion within the next five years and to encourage two-way flow of investments.
The submission of report of joint study group to study the feasibility of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement marks an important step in bringing the two economies close together.
“We have directed our officials to examine the report and expedite the next steps,” he said.
Singh said he was convinced that a strong India-Canada partnership will facilitate solutions to global challenges such as energy and food security, sustainable development, climate change and the fight against extremism and poverty.
“Towards this end, we have agreed to promote and maintain a high level dialogue between India and Canada, he said.
Two leaders committed to expanding a range of activities and institutional frameworks that will contribute to the shared goal of increasing bilateral trade to $ 15 billion in next five years.
They also announced their commitment to an annual dialogue on trade and investment between Canada’s Minister for International Trade and Indian Commerce and Industry Minister.
They welcomed the conclusion of negotiations of social security agreement and looked forward to its early signing followed by ratification and implementation.
Later speaking at a banquet hosted in honour by Harper, Singh said “India and Canada shared much in common. We are separated by distance but we are united in our values. We both cherish our freedom, our democratic way of life, our pluralism and our spirit of tolerance.”
Recalling late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visit to Canada 37 years ago, he referred to her statement that “greatest achievement of Canadian people was not the high economic standards they had attained but the fact that it is regarded as a nation of friends that had shown interest in expanding business ties with India.”
Singh said growing number of Canadian investors we coming to India in areas like telecommunications, environment, energy, financial services and transportation.
Indian investment in Canada has increased 10 folds in last decade. “These are all very encouraging signs.”
The Prime Minister praised Canada’s ability to welcome and assimilate peoples from across the world and noted that Indian origin community in Canada today numbered approximately 1.1 million.
The community constitutes a bridge between the two countries and remained strong and unshakable even in the most difficult circumstances, he said.
Singh also announced that the government organise a year long festival of India in Canada in 2011 to show case rich cultural and art heritage and promote greater tourism and travel.