NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Stephen Harper is assuring India that Canada is working with U.S. authorities and will share intelligence on a Canadian terrorism suspect who was reportedly in Mumbai in the days before attackers laid siege to the city last year.
Harper also says Canada has full trust in the emerging South Asian giant to safeguard its civilian nuclear program — giving the green light to Canadian nuclear technology transfers in future.
Harper and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh say they discussed the case of Tahawwur Hussain Rana during a meeting late Tuesday in the Indian capital.
“On the case in question, we worked very closely with our American friends in this matter and Prime Minister Singh and I certainly discussed the case and are certainly resolved to co-operate closely in the future and exchange information on these matters,” Harper told a packed news conference.
Singh called it “a very fruitful discussion in expanding areas of co-operation between our two countries in dealing with the international scourge of terrorism.”
India has put its nuclear installations on alert following reports Rana and another man, David Headley, may have scouted nuclear facilities while recruiting terror converts in the country.
Headley has also been accused in India of helping plot last November’s terror attacks in Mumbai. New intelligence, according to Indian reports, suggests he visited Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, all of which have nuclear installations.
While all the allegations are speculative and cloaked in official secrecy, any questions about Indian nuclear security only serve to highlight an already deeply sensitive Canada-India issue.
The two countries have a troubled nuclear past. Canada provided nuclear expertise in the 1960s that India subsequently used to develop a surreptitious nuclear arms program in the early 1970s, despite official promises to the contrary.
The betrayal caused a two-decade chill in relations, and disarmament critics maintain that any renewed civilian nuclear trade, by definition, will free up Indian capacity to boost its nuclear arsenal.
The Harper government announced last January it was pursuing renewed nuclear technology trade through a formal civilian commercial agreement, but a deal will not be signed here this week.
Still, the prime minister indicated any impediments to a deal will soon be overcome.
India has recently signed nuclear co-operation agreements with the United States, Russia and France as nuclear powers rush to cash in on the emerging India economy and its energy demands.
“We also have great faith in our Indian friends and partners,” said Harper. “We are not living in the 1970s. We are living in 2009.”
Rana, a Pakistani-Canadian, is being held in Chicago in an unrelated terrorism case, and is not facing any charges in connection with claims in the latest media reports.
Harper assured his Indian hosts that they were not alone in facing terrorists.
He reminded the audience that Canada’s worst terrorism incident was the 1980 bombing of an Air India flight out of Vancouver that took 329 lives, mostly Canadians. And he noted two Canadians died last November in the terror attacks on Mumbai.
“So we are countries that have felt the pain of terrorism together.”