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Putin sounds PM on nuke transfer
- Russian President calls for change in international rules, plans to lobby Washington

New Delhi, Dec. 4: Keen to do business with India in the field of nuclear energy for civilian and peaceful purposes, Russia today called for changing the existing rules that govern transfer of nuclear technology.

At the same time, it expressed concern over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) falling into the hands of terrorists, and urged the international community to bring about changes that would effectively check clandestine transfer and proliferation of nuclear technology.

Russia has been helping India in enhancing its nuclear power generation. Moscow has already supplied two nuclear reactors for the power plant in Kudankoolam, in Tamil Nadu, a few years ago.

Indications suggest that preparations are on to expand the plant’s existing platform to add two more Russian reactors to increase generation by another 2000 MW.

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Indian delegation led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee discussed the issue in detail during the day, neither side is willing to acknowledge it publicly at this juncture.

“There is great future between India and Russia in the field of nuclear energy and in the past we have worked successfully on this. But we work within the existing international framework and under the obligations that we have undertaken,” Putin said this evening, when asked to comment on cooperation between the two sides. He was also quick to add that “existing rules and regulations needed to be improved”.

Minutes earlier, while responding to a question on Moscow’s concern over Pakistan’s weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists, Putin said the existing rules to check non-proliferation of nuclear weapons needed to be strengthened.

“We really think we should react strongly to the danger posed by the proliferation of WMD and the possible misuse of these weapons by terrorists,” he said and added that a campaign should be launched to make the world aware of the danger posed by clandestine transfers.

The Russian President’s remarks on the transfer of nuclear of technology are significant. Russia is a member of the Permanent Five (P-5) and one of the five recognised nuclear powers. India, Pakistan and Israel, though nuclear powers, are not recognised as none of them has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

What Moscow now intends to do is lobby Washington and other key players to bring about a change in the existing rules to take care of the new realities.

Cooperation between India and Russia for the Kudankoolam nuclear power plant had run into problems when Moscow decided to sell the reactors. Russia is a member of the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG), which makes it clear that any member that is not part of the group or is not a signatory to the NPT will not get access to nuclear technology.

The only way nuclear technology from one of the NSG members could be passed to a non-member country is if it agrees to “full-scope international safeguards”. This, in effect, means nuclear technology will be given to the non-members only if they allow international inspectors to inspect their nuclear programme.

India is against this since it does not want its nuclear military programme to come under international scrutiny. But it has maintained that since its nuclear programme has always been transparent, it wants help from countries that have the technology for use in civilian sectors. Delhi is also willing to allow inspection of its projects, which it is developing with outside help.

However, India’s argument has not found many takers among the NSG members. What Russia now proposes to do is work along the existing NSG framework by expanding the Kudankoolam nuclear power project.

This, the two sides feel, will enable them to circumvent the NSG guidelines without India agreeing to “full-scope safeguards”.

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