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Nuclear cooperation on PM’s Russian agenda
Published on 6 Dec. 2009 12:36 AM IST
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Close on the heels of his visit to Washington, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh heads for Moscow Sunday on a three-day trip with expansion of civil nuclear cooperation and an extended defence pact topping the agenda. The agreement, expected to be inked during the annual summit talks between Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Monday, will ensure continuation of Moscow’s support for the ongoing civil nuclear programme in India and will ensure any unforeseen disruption of fuel supply and technology from Russia for nuclear power projects in India. Other highlights of the agreement are reprocessing consent rights for all future Russian reactors supplied to India. India will also be allowed to enrich Russian-supplied uranium up to 20 percent, according to the draft agreement. The prime minister in an interview to Russian media Friday described the nuclear energy cooperation as “a very important pillar of our cooperation with Russia”. “We have identified new sites for collaboration with Russia for nuclear power projects,” Manmohan Singh said in the interview, the transcript of which was released by the Indian ministry of external affairs. Manmohan Singh and Medvedev will also discuss supply of four more Russian reactors for the nuclear power station in Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and its Russian counterpart Atomstroyexport are currently collaborating for installation of two reactors in Koodankulam. The agreement to build these two civilian nuclear reactors in India was signed in December 2008 during a visit by the Russian president to New Delhi. India and the then Soviet Union had in 1988 inked the deal for the Koodankulam project, which was left in limbo for almost a decade due to the break-up of the USSR as well as objections by the US. The Dec 6-8 trip will see the two countries signing two major defence-related agreements including a 10-year deal on weapons, aircraft and maintenance contracts estimated at around $5 billion. But the long-awaited deal for aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov is unlikely to be finalised. Though Manmohan Singh is likely to take up the issue during the talks with Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, defence officials in New Delhi do not expect any breakthrough in the impasse. Defence Minister A.K. Antony last week said the Gorshkov deal “is not going to be clinched” during the prime minister’s visit. The price negotiations between Russian and Indian officials for Gorshkov have gone on for long, with both sides refusing to budge from their stand. In November, a 40-member Russian delegation was in India to discuss the price hike for refurbishment of the $ 2.2-billion aircraft carrier. The hike has now touched $2.9 billion, instead of the $974 million that was originally contracted. India has asked Russia to bring down the price to $2.1 billion. The two sides are also expected to increase bilateral trade from $7 billion to $20 billion by 2015. The volatile situation in Afghanistan and terrorism are also likely to figure in the talks. Manmohan Singh will attend the closing ceremony of the ‘Year of India in Russia’ in the new hall of the historic Bolshoi Theatre Monday. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Sobyanin was in New Delhi last month and Indian President Pratibha Patil paid a five-day visit to Moscow in September.

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