Saying that Ottawa’s opposition to the Indian civil nuclear sector was now in the past, the visiting Canadian Foreign Minister, John Baird, on Wednesday promised his government’s active encouragement to facilitate India’s entry into its gas and oil sector as well. Canada is the world’s third largest natural gas producer and has the third largest proven reserves of oil.
Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Baird said he expected a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to be agreed upon by next year and the Social Security Agreement in time for the Prime Minister’s visit later this year.
Mr. Baird was at hand in Valdivostok when Canada and China, the other focus country for Ottawa, signed a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA). With India, he said, the FIPA was in the works and would give a “real signal to the business community in Canada.”
Focus on energy
During a brief interaction, the Minister focussed on energy, making the point that Canada would be a stable supplier. “There is great potential on the east coast as well. We have a number of good discussions going with India,” he said while pointing out that his government would be proactive in speeding up permissions for natural resource extraction and laying down pipelines, besides facilitating financing. The liquid natural gas terminal coming up on the east coast was an added attraction, he said. Both the energy hungry countries, China and India, have been eyeing Canada’s gas reserves but China has been faster off the block with the inking of a $15-billion deal last week in addition to earlier breakthroughs.
On civil nuclear energy — Canada cut off ties in the nuclear sector after India conducted the 1974 nuclear test as it felt the material for the bomb had been diverted from Canadian designed plants — the Minister said his country had “turned the pages of the last century” and was optimistic of both countries striking a deal for uranium in the “coming weeks and months.” Canada is insisting on India agreeing upon “some administrative arrangements,” which Mr. Baird insisted was “exactly the same” as the ones it has signed with the U.S. and the EU.
Earlier, at a joint press conference, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said there was “nothing” that was holding back the deal. “The two governments are in the process of working out arrangements, details, which are being negotiated. These are matters of detail, which is being worked out in consultations,” he observed.
On closer ties in the hydrocarbons sector, Mr. Krishna said trends in supplies and price of oil and gas make Canada an economically attractive option.
On reports that Sikh militants were reorganising in Canada, Mr. Baird said that in 2003, his government started listing such groups in order to more closely monitor their activities. Canada would also ensure that people giving hate speeches are tried in criminal courts.