India, Russia to have closer cooperation in nuclear energy

India, Russia to have closer cooperation in nuclear energy

New Delhi: India and Russia on Tuesday signed several pacts covering traditional and new areas of cooperation such as energy, defence, space and pharmaceuticals, and agreed to consider a wider Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with Kazakhastan and Belarus to invigorate their flagging trade ties.

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Nearly 30 agreements including a preliminary design contract for fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) for the Indian Air Force worth up to $30 billion (Rs1.36 trillion) and pacts for closer cooperation in the hydrocarbon and civil nuclear energy sectors were signed after talks between visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.

Separately, both countries signed a protocol to maintain an uninterrupted supply of the jointly developed Brahmos cruise missiles for the Indian military, PTI reported.

In a joint statement issued after the Singh-Medvedev talks, the two sides said they have “agreed to continue their efforts to achieve the strategic target of bilateral trade volume of $20 billion (Rs1.41 trillion) by 2015". The current volume of trade between the two countries is nearly $10 billion in December 2010, according to Russian embassy figures.

They added: “Both sides agreed to consider the possibility of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement taking into account the implementation of the agreements on constituting the customs union between Russia, Kazakhastan and Belarus..."

Hailing Russia as a “time-tested friend", Singh described ties with the country as “a partnership that has and will continue to develop independent of our relations with other countries"—an apparent reference to India’s warming ties with the US over the past decade.

India was seen on the side of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War days. India and Russia have been trying to recast ties since to adjust to a changed geopolitical context following the break-up of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the US as the pre-eminent global power.

Once India’s major supplier of defence hardware and main partner in high-tech and space, Russia is facing increasing competition from countries such as the US, Britain and France thanks to India’s emergence as one of the fastest growing major economies.

In the field of civil nuclear energy, India’s department of atomic energy and Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation, Rosatom, signed a pact for a joint research and development in reactor technology, according to India’s foreign ministry.

Energy-hungry India is one of the world’s biggest markets for nuclear technology, with French, American, South Korean and Russian firms keen to win contracts.

Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko told reporters that Russia will build at least 18 nuclear reactors at three locations in India, Bloomberg reported. These are apart from the two 1,000MW power reactors under construction in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

Though there was no pact on building two more nuclear power units in Kudankulam, as was anticipated, Kiriyenko said India and Russia have agreed on credit for the units.

“Our talks have been comprehensive and result oriented," Singh said, adding that the pacts signed “reflects our mutual desire to bring our cooperation in other areas at par with our traditionally strong cooperation in the defence and nuclear fields".

India and Russia also concluded an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the oil and gas sector. “This is the result of a lot of hard work put in by both sides, and reflects the complementarities between our two economies," Singh said.

The pact provides an administrative framework for undertaking joint projects in India, Russia and other countries by oil and gas companies from both nations.

Among other new areas of collaboration, pharmaceuticals emerged as a key sector with Indian and Russian firms signing about half a dozen preliminary agreements.

Another key agreement was on sharing high precision signals from the global navigation satellite system, the Russian equivalent of the US global positioning system that is designed for both military and civilian use.

Both systems allow users to determine their positions to within a few metres. The Russian system is made up of 26 orbiting satellites, with 23 of them operational.

On the political front, Russia backed India for a permanent UN Security Council seat. It also expressed support for India joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a key Central Asian grouping, as well as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum that brings together countries lining the Pacific Ocean rim.

The joint statement said Russia also backed India’s wish to join international nuclear and missile technology export control groupings such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, and called on Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

India and Russia said they “strongly condemned those who support terrorism noting that states that aid, abet or shelter terrorists are as guilty of acts of terrorism as their actual perpetrators".

India expressed sympathy for the victims of the terrorist attacks in metro stations in Moscow in March.

Pakistan reacted sharply to the military and nuclear energy pacts signed between India and Russia. These agreements would lead to instability in the South Asian region, said Abdul Basit, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry in an interview with state-run PTV.

PTI and Bloomberg contributed to this story.