Canada and India signed off on a deal that will see Canadian uranium exported to India as part of a wide-ranging pledge to increase trade, in spite of long-standing concerns regarding India's nuclear weapons program.
Immediately after wrapping up the two-day G20 summit at the Toronto Convention Centre, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was off to a bilateral meeting and dinner with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a few blocks away at the Westin hotel.
The nuclear deal signed Sunday night has been in the works for some time and was discussed when Mr. Harper visited India late last year.
"India fully reciprocates Canada's desire to intensify our bilateral relations in all areas," Mr. Singh said.
The two countries also agreed to a joint study "that lays the groundwork" for bilateral free-trade negotiations.
Several Conservative cabinet ministers were hand for the dinner, including Trade Minister Peter Van Loan.
India first obtained its nuclear technology from Canada, but a controversial test of a nuclear weapon in 1974 suggested the Canadian research reactor had been misused to obtain weapons-grade plutonium.
Some nuclear policy experts, including M.V. Ramana of Princeton University, have warned the deal could increase tension between India and Pakistan, which has also tested nuclear weapons.
The concern expressed by experts is that while India will not use the new Canadian uranium for weapons, it will free up more of its domestic supply to be used for its weapons program.
Both Prime Ministers, however, insisted the new arrangement is structured in a way that assures this will not happen.
"We did engage in extensive negotiations to deal with those issues," Mr. Harper said, adding that he has absolute confidence that the deal is sound on that point. "We cannot live as a country in the 1970s. We are living in very different realities today. ... We want to make sure that we send the message that we are going to be friends and allies on a very big level going forward in the future. That is our objective here and that's the clear message we are sending in moving in this direction."
Mr. Singh offered a similar assurance.
"Nuclear materials and equipment supplied to India under the agreements we signed today will be fully safeguarded," he said. "We have a foolproof system of export controls. We have complete civilian control of our own nuclear facilities and as such there is absolutely no scope whatsoever of the nuclear materials and nuclear equipment supplied to India being used for unintended purposes."Report Typo/Error