INDIA AND Russia on Thursday agreed to put the government’s flagship “Make in India” programme at the centrestage of their strategic relationship, as New Delhi and Moscow decided to build nuclear reactor components and military helicopters in India.
Apart from helicopters, the agreement is expected to result in the construction of 12 atomic plants with the involvement of Indian firms.
Russia is the first country to have agreed to take the initiative under the “Make in India” umbrella in two key strategic sectors — nuclear and defence. Sources said that while this move is perceived as a vote of confidence in India’s economy, it also puts a lid — at least, for the time being — on concerns in New Delhi about Moscow’s growing proximity to Islamabad.
After bilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “The Inter-Governmental Agreement on the manufacture of Kamov-226 helicopters in India is the first project for a major defence platform under the Make-in-India mission. It is, rightly, with our most important defence partner.”
The Prime Minister said that the two sides made progress on a number of other defence proposals which would boost manufacturing and readiness with next-generation equipment.
On the nuclear field, Modi said, “The pace of our cooperation in nuclear energy is increasing. We are making progress on our plans for 12 Russian nuclear reactors at two sites. The agreement today will increase Indian manufacturing content in these reactors. It supports my mission of Make in India. I thank President Putin for his support.”
Putin said Unit-II of the Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu, being built by Russia, will be commissioned within weeks and negotiations are at an advanced staged for units III and IV.
The two sides inked 16 pacts, which included those on the nuclear and defence sectors.
On defence, a joint statement said, “The sides took note of achievements in the field of joint design, development and production of high-technology military equipment. Both sides reaffirmed their intention to expand the scope of such cooperation and to avail of the opportunities provided by the Make in India initiative in the defence sector and directed the concerned agencies to finalise such projects between relevant entities and enterprises of the two countries at the earliest.”
On the nuclear front, the joint statement reaffirmed that cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy is a “cornerstone” of the Russia-India strategic partnership.
It said that the two sides welcomed progress in identifying the second site in India for an additional six nuclear reactor units to be set up in cooperation with Russia. “They agreed to actively work towards localisation of manufacturing in India under the aegis of Make in India and in tandem with the serial construction of nuclear power plants,” said the statement.
Summit-level talks between the two countries at the highest level have been taking place alternately in Moscow and New Delhi since 2000.
This time, with Putin by his side, Modi stressed on the need for the world to unite against terrorism “without distinction and discrimination between terrorist groups and target countries”, in an apparent reference to Pakistan.
Sharing concern over terrorism, the two sides pressed for a joint fight against the global menace “without selectivity and double standards”, the joint statement said.
Putin conveyed Russia’s “strong support” to India’s bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, saying it is a “deserving and strong candidate that can bring an independent and responsible approach” within the world body.
Without naming Syria, Modi said, “We agree that an early political settlement through dialogue in West Asia is essential for restoring stability and containing extremism in the region. Indeed, all nations must come together, with sensitivity to each other, to address the challenges of our times.”
Wrapping up the talks, Modi said that just like he visited Russia twice this year, he looked forward to welcoming Putin in India next year for the BRICS Summit as well as the Annual Summit.