The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Putin visit to focus on power

New Delhi, Dec. 2: Efforts to enhance Indo-Russian nuclear cooperation for civilian purposes will be one of the main areas of discussion during President Vladimir Putin’s three-day visit beginning here tomorrow.

The Russians have helped India set up a 2,000-mw nuclear power plant at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu. Indications are that the two countries would like to set up a few more nuclear reactors to boost India’s nuclear power generation. But this has to be done keeping international safeguards in mind.

This apart, “nuclearisation of terrorism”, particularly reports of clandestine nuclear and missile programmes between Pakistan and North Korea and the possibility of weapons of mass destruction falling in the hands of Pakistan-based terrorists, will also figure in the talks.

“If the international community is concerned about fundamentalism, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, then Pakistan is the country that has to be closely looked at since it has got all the three ingredients in it,” foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal told newsmen today.

Putin has expressed concern over the possibility of Pakistan’s weapons of mass destruction falling into “wrong hands”.

The comments though drew angry protests from Islamabad made the Indian leadership happy. “We have been talking about nuclearisation of terrorism for the past many years,” Sibal said.

The two sides will sign a memorandum of understanding to combat terrorism and set up a Joint Working Group on counter-terrorism that will provide the two sides the opportunity to exchange information and equipments and train each other's personnel to effectively fight the menace.

Putin who arrives here tomorrow evening will get a chance to have a closed door discussion with the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee over the dinner being hosted by the latter at his 7,Race Course Road residence. His main interactions will be on December 4 where he will get a chance to interact with all the senior members of the governnment, including the deputy Prime Minister L.K.Advani, the foreign minister Yashwant Sinha and the defence minister George Fernandes. A banquet will be hosted in his honour on Wednesday night by the President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

On cooperation from Russia on nuclear energy, Sibal said, “We are looking for greater Russian involvement.” He argued that the Russians already have a “head-start” over other countries and the two sides should be able to “ overcome the obstacle “ that have been put up by bodies like Nuclear Suppliers Group ( NSG ) of which Russia is a member and India is not.

Russia is keen to sell two more reactors to India to enhance the nuclear power generation at Koodankulam. But the problem is that if the sale is carried through India may have to accept the “full-scope” safeguards as per the NSG guidelines and thus jeopardise its nuclear military programme in the process. Efforts will be made by the two sides to find a way out which will make the new project open to international inspection, but not the other nuclear programmes of India.

India has been arguing that it is an energy hungry country and to meet its need it will have to set up a number of power projects in the country. Since nuclear power plants are the cleanest and cheapest in comparision to other sources of power, Delhi feels the international community should not block the transfer of nuclear technology for civilian use to it anymore.

Trade will be another priority area which will be highlighted by the Russian President during his talks with the Indians. Despite the excellent relationship between the two countries, their trade is only at a modest $ 1.5 billion. Stress will be given to look for newer areas of investment in each other country which will be beneficial to both sides.

Putin will unveil his plans to enhance trade and economic activities between the two sides during a luncheon meeting with the captains of the Indian industries at a joint session of the Ficci and the CII on Wednesday afternoon.


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