A day after nuclear installations were put on high alert following inputs that terrorists might target them, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh allayed fears about their safety.
“We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety and security of nuclear installations,” Dr. Singh said on Tuesday in response to a question on the threat to nuclear plants and India’s quest to step up the civil nuclear energy component in its energy mix.
At a joint press conference with Dr. Singh here, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper described India as a safe and reliable country and Canada had no reservations in negotiating a civilian nuclear deal with it.
Both leaders revealed that they had discussed the case of Canadian born Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Tahawwur Rana and resolved to step up exchange of information on terrorism. While declining comment on the case, as investigations were under way, Dr. Singh said he and Mr. Harper had useful discussion on expanding the area of cooperation in combating international terror.
“We work closely with the U.S. [which has Rana and his associates in custody] and have resolved to work closely with India on cooperation and exchange of information in this area,” added Mr. Harper.
In a joint statement at the end of delegation-level talks, Mr. Harper reiterated Canada’s commitment to be India’s ally in tackling global terrorism. Both Prime Ministers also called for an early conclusion of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism within the United Nations framework.
Although an agreement on civil nuclear energy could not be finalised despite three previous rounds of discussions, India and Canada signed pacts that would advance bilateral trade and sourcing of raw materials for conventional as well as non-conventional energy.
With the second largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and proven expertise in advanced mining and oil extraction technologies, the memorandum of understanding on energy aims to enhance cooperation in energy research and development as well as in sustainable exploration and production, mining and drilling. Canada is one of the biggest suppliers of uranium and also has substantial reserves of iron ore, nickel, zinc and diamond.
With the U.S., Canada’s main market, still facing recession, the formation of a Joint Study Group (JSG) to examine the feasibility of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement would be the first step in improving the business climate in both countries as well as deepening trade and investment flows. The JSG would identify trade barriers and suggest streamlining of regulations, noted Mr. Harper.
He met top Indian corporate leaders in Mumbai on Monday to encourage them to step up investments in his country.
Mr. Harper leaves for Amritsar on Wednesday to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple.
Dr. Singh and Mr. Harper have met several times in the past, including at CHOGM in Kampala in 2007 and the G-8 summit in Hokkaido last year.
There are over 10 lakh people of Indian origin in Canada, and Punjabi is the fourth largest spoken language. The Indian community is politically active, with 12 MPs in the House of Commons and one in the Senate.
Canada, a member of the G-8, will host the next G-20 summit.