India, Russia ink new nuclear-deal; Moscow most important defence partner, says PM Narendra Modi

Modi said Putin is a great leader and he has been a pillar of strength for India's security and international relations.

By: Reuters Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: December 12, 2014 9:27 am
Vladimir Putin Narendra Modi, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shake hands as they pose for photos before a meeting in New Delhi. (Source: AP photo)

Unitedly opposing economic sanctions that do not have the UNSC’s approval, India and Russia on Thursday sought to strengthen their “special strategic partnership” by announcing a clutch of agreements in energy and defence, including Moscow’s help in building at least 12 nuclear reactors and a plan to manufacture advanced Russian military helicopters and defence spare parts in India.

Unveiling a “Druzhba-Dosti” vision statement for the next decade after a four-hour long meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitched for “at least 10 more (nuclear) reactors” with the highest standards of safety. “It will include manufacture of equipment and components in India. This also supports our Make in India policy,” he said.

embed1A strategic vision document on nuclear power signed on Thursday said both sides would strive to complete the construction and commissioning of “not less than 12 units” in the next two decades, in accordance with the 2008 agreement. Towards this objective, the Indian side agreed to expeditiously identify a second site, in addition to Kudankulam, for the construction of the Russian-designed nuclear power units in India.

“We have just signed a document of great significance — the strategic vision for strengthening Indian-Russian cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear power. It contains plans to build over 20 nuclear power units in India, as well as cooperation in building Russia-designed nuclear power stations in third countries, in the joint extraction of natural uranium, production of nuclear fuel and waste elimination. This will lay the foundation for our long-term mutually beneficial cooperation in the nuclear sector,” said Putin.

Russian government officials said Moscow has “in principle” agreed to the Indian nuclear liability law, factoring in the costs involved in the process. This led to the signing of the supplement to the General Framework Agreement (GFA) for Units 3 and 4 of Kudankulam nuclear power project between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Atomstroyexport on Thursday.

The issue of nuclear liability has been dogging the sector, as the American and French firms have not been able to overcome the issue. This has prevented the US and French nuclear firms from starting work on setting up the nuclear power projects in the last five years.
Stressing that Russia would remain India’s most important defence partner “even if India’s options have increased”, Modi said, “We discussed how to align our defence relations to India’s own priorities, including Make in India… Russia has offered to fully manufacture in India one of its most advanced helicopters. It includes the possibility of exports from India. It can be used for both military and civilian use. We will follow up on this quickly.”

He also proposed that Russia should locate in India manufacturing facilities for spares and components for its defence equipment. “He responded very positively to my request,” said Modi.

“During our meeting, we paid special attention to trade and economic issues. By the end of 2013, our trade turnover reached $10 billion, but we believe — and it is obvious — that this is absolutely insufficient. We had a detailed discussion on the practical measures required to diversify our mutual trade and further enhance investment; we agreed to stimulate companies in both countries to activate joint work and to speed up the transition to the use of national currencies in mutual settlements,” said Putin.

He said they also agreed to be “more active” in supporting joint high-tech industrial and research projects. “We will assist in creating an Indian mobile operator. We are interested in the Indian initiative to build a Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor… A bulldozer equipment assembly line will soon reach design capacity. In 2016, with the assistance of Russian company Sibur Holding, we will complete the construction of one of the world’s largest butyl rubber producing plants in Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat,” said Putin.

In their joint statement, the leaders agreed to step up efforts to enhance bilateral trade, setting a turnover target of US$ 30 billion by 2025. It is expected that mutual investments by then will be over US$15 billion.

In this context, the two sides decided to work towards enhanced cooperation in “oil and gas sphere”, and said they would study the possibilities of building a hydrocarbon pipeline system connecting Russia with India. “It is expected that Indian companies will strongly participate in projects related to new oil and gas fields in the territory of the Russian federation,” said the statement.

Stressing that Russia is the world’s top source for hydrocarbon resources and India one of the world’s largest importers, Modi said, “Yet, despite our close friendship, our collaboration in this sector has been disappointing. Today, we have made a new start with a few important agreements. But, we will set an ambitious agenda for partnership in oil and natural gas.”

They also agreed to examine avenues for participation in petrochemical projects — in India and Russia as well as in “third countries”.
Putin said new prospects would open up for Russian-Indian cooperation with the launch of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) on January 1 next year. “Mr Prime Minister has just mentioned the possibility of establishing special relations between India and the EEU. We agreed to continue consultations on a free trade zone agreement,” he said.

On terrorism, the leaders condoled the loss of lives and agreed to work together for the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism by the 70th anniversary summit of the UN. “The leaders expressed hope that all safe havens and sanctuaries for terrorists will be wiped out without delay and terrorism will be completely eradicated from the common region within a decade,” the statement said.

“India and Russia oppose economic sanctions that do not have the approval of the United Nations Security Council,” it said. Pushing for the UN’s central role in international relations, they said they would work together to promote a “polycentric” and “democratic” world order based on shared interests of all countries.

The two countries signed 20 agreements — eight between government entities and 12 between private enterprises — in the fields of nuclear energy, oil and gas, health, investment, mining, media and wind power.

Putin also met President Pranab Mukherjee, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul, and attended a conference on rough diamonds in Delhi.