India on Saturday signed a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Kazakhstan,which will enable it to import uranium from the central Asian republic for its fuel-starved nuclear power plants. This is Indias fourth such agreement,following those entered into with the US,France and Russia,after earning a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group to resume nuclear commerce last September.
Kazakhstan is the third-largest producer of uranium,accounting for about 15 per cent of world production,while India is in desperate need of uranium for its 17 nuclear power plants. With domestic production not keeping up with the demand,these power plants have been running at nearly half their capacities.
The agreement,between by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and Kazatomprom,was one of the four signed between the two countries in the presence of visiting Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his Indian counterpart Pratibha Patil. A joint statement issued in the evening noted that Indias re-entry into nuclear trade had opened immense possibilities of cooperation between the two countries in the nuclear energy sector.
India conveyed to the visiting dignitary that New Delhi considered Kazakhstan extremely important in addressing its energy needs and hoped for a long-term mutually beneficial cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector. In this regard,the two sides expressed satisfaction on the agreement between ONGC-Mittal and Kazakh national oil firm KazMauaniGas signed on Saturday.
The agreement cleared ONGC-Mittal,a joint venture between Indias state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Mittal Steel,to buy 25 per cent stake in the Satpayev oil field in the Caspian Sea.
The two countries also signed an MoU for cooperation in the field of space. Though Kazakhstan is not a very big player in the sector,it has inherited some of the programmes from the erstwhile Soviet Union. Its scientists have been working on semi-cryogenic engines used in launch vehicles,an area where India has also been trying to increase its capabilities. The two sides also agreed to increase the trade volumes and recommended a joint study to identify products and projects which would deepen their economic engagement.