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India to ink civil nuke pacts with Russia
Published on 11 Mar. 2010 11:02 PM IST
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India and Russia will Friday tighten their strategic and economic ties by signing a slew of agreements, including an umbrella civil nuclear pact and another accord fixing the cost of the refurbished aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov at $2.35 billion. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will Friday evening holds talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who touches down in India close to midnight Thursday for a brief visit lasting less than 24 hours. The two sides will sign an umbrella inter-governmental civil nuclear agreement, a clutch of defence deals and a visa pact after the talks, officials said. The nuclear pact was initialled during Manmohan Singh’s trip to Moscow in December last year. Building upon ongoing civil nuclear cooperation with Russia, Manmohan Singh is likely to press for an access to Russian nuclear reprocessing technology. India and the US are close to finalising a pact on reprocessing. Setting a positive tone for Friday’s talks, India’s cabinet committee on security (CCS) cleared the $2.35 billion fresh price for the Admiral Gorshkov. The long-delayed renegotiated pact for the carrier, renamed INS Vikramaditya, will be among the defence deals worth $4 billion that are expected to be finalised during Putin’s visit. The warship, originally purchased for $1.5 billion, is currently undergoing a refit at Russia’s Sevmash shipyard. Of this, $974 million was meant for the refit and the balance for a squadron of MiG-29K combat jets that will be deployed on the vessel. Citing additional costs for the refit, Moscow had scaled up the price to $2.9 billion. New Delhi wanted the price to be scaled back to $2.1 billion. Finally, the two sides have settled for $2.35 billion after months of intense negotiations. A slew of defence contracts like the $1.2 billion deal for 29 MiG-29K maritime fighters and the joint development of the stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) are also likely to be finalised during Putin’s visit. Pacts on setting up joint pharmaceutical ventures and visa simplification are also expected to be signed during the visit, key steps that can take scale up business ties that have not matched the level of strategic partnership the two countries have enjoyed since the Soviet era, sources said. Under the visa agreement, Indian businessmen wishing to visit Russia will require a certificate from an industry body like the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) or Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) confirming their credentials. Russia’s stringent visa regime was widely considered a major obstacle by Indian businessmen wishing to travel to that country to explore business opportunities. India and Russia are aiming to more than triple their bilateral trade to $20 billion by 2015.

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