India and the meltdown of Canadaâ€™s nuclear non-proliferation policy - thestar.com Canada and India both want to start a new chapter in the history of our bilateral nuclear relations. This new chapter is meant to put behind us the bitterness of the past, when a Canadian-supplied research reactor was exploited to produce Indiaâ€™s first â€œpeacefulâ€ nuclear explosion in 1974 and subsequently to help create Indiaâ€™s nuclear weapon arsenal that was made overt through a series of nuclear tests in May 1998. Also to be erased in this revisionist history is reference to UN Security Council Resolution 1172 of June 1998, which demanded that India and Pakistan foreswear further tests and reverse their nuclear weapon ambitions. Despite the resolutionâ€™s unanimous adoption and threat of sanctions, states led by most of the Security Councilâ€™s Permanent Five were soon privileging their own bilateral relations with India over any effort at maintaining a united front to counter this blatant act of nuclear proliferation. Fast forward a decade and the cause of nuclear non-proliferation again suffers a body blow from its erstwhile chief defender, the United States, which concludes in 2008 a bilateral nuclear co-operation agreement with India. This agreement essentially granted India all the benefits of membership in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) without requiring of it any of the obligations of that membership. Other potential concessions to be required of India in return for this nuclear largesse, such as signature of the Comprehensive (Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty or a moratorium on fissile material production for nuclear weapons, were not even proposed by the Bush administration, which had little time for maintaining multilateral norms and was eager to please American commercial and congressional interests. The United States needed, however, the approval of all of the 46 states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to grant India an unprecedented exception to its hitherto strict export guidelines which required that recipient states had concluded a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that material supplied would not be diverted into prohibited nuclear weapon development activity. Despite the fact that all NSG members, including Canada, had made solemn political commitments at the NPTâ€™s 1995 and 2000 Review Conferences to adhere to this standard for nuclear trade, the NSG members were rolled by a combination of U.S. and Indian diplomatic pressure and the influence of domestic lobbies keen to get in on the action. Although this nuclear commercial action has proved mostly illusionary, there has been no shortage of countries that dream about expanded trade with India and have scant concern for compromising nuclear non-proliferation policy in the process. Canada joined the queue of nuclear suitors by concluding its own bilateral cooperation agreement with India in June 2010. Article V of this agreement formalized Canadaâ€™s turning a blind eye to Indiaâ€™s nuclear weapon programs, by stipulating that co-operation on Indiaâ€™s civilian nuclear program should not affect any nuclear activities developed by either party independent of the agreement. Thus while nuclear material originating in Canada could not be used in Indiaâ€™s military program, that material could supplement the limited Indian supplies of uranium and free up more of it for the manufacture of nuclear weapons. The bilateral nuclear co-operation agreement could not come into force, however, before an administrative arrangement between the respective nuclear regulatory agencies was concluded. The negotiation of this agreement proved difficult as Canadaâ€™s regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), tried to maintain traditional high standards of nuclear material accounting from India as it has done under similar arrangements with other states. India, however, saw no interest in providing Canada with information that it was already furnishing to the International Atomic Energy Agency. India bristled at the suggestion that this little, non-nuclear weapon state should presume to exercise any form of oversight over its nuclear activity. After a few rounds of talks failed to produce an agreement and as the dates for the prime ministerâ€™s trip approached, it would appear the CNSC team was instructed to cut a deal. While in the absence of a public text it is difficult to assess the nature of the deal, the CNSC news release speaks only generally of â€œdiscussions and information sharingâ€ by the parties in the joint committee established under the agreement and there is no reference to the submission of inventory reports and accounting processes for nuclear material that figure in other such arrangements. The suppression of any remaining inconvenient non-proliferation practices in order to activate the bilateral nuclear accord is in keeping with the track record of recent years. A new nuclear narrative is required for the occasion and ironically it took the form of the two prime ministers declaring their support for a world free of nuclear weapons. Paul Meyer is a former ambassador of Canada for disarmament. He is currently Fellow in International Security at Simon Fraser University and Senior Fellow the Simons Foundation both in Vancouver.