The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM gets a powerful promise from Putin

Moscow, May 9: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will go back from the Victory Day celebrations more than satisfied. He has assurance from President Vladimir Putin that Russia will address India’s concerns about furthering co-operation in nuclear power generation and taking economic ties to a level commensurate with the special relationship between the two.

The Russian President, according to national security adviser M.K. Narayanan, said the extension of nuclear co-operation for power generation would be seen 'sooner rather than later'. This means Russian sale of four nuclear reactors of 1,000 mw each for electricity generation and nuclear fuel for them as well as the Tarapore nuclear power plant.

This was presumably after Singh assured Putin that to address nuclear proliferation concerns, a stringent legislation was to be introduced in Parliament this week.

The primary focus of the Putin-Singh talks was on extending energy co-operation and furthering economic ties.

It was Singh who raised the issue of supply of additional reactors for the Koodangulam nuclear power station in southern Tamil Nadu. He appreciated the Russian assistance in the construction of two nuclear reactors of 1,000 mw each to generate electricity with the first plant already operational and the second to go on line in 2007.

The fuel for the reactors ' uranium enriched to about four per cent ' is supplied by Russia and will be returned to it after it is burned. India now plans to expand the power generating capacity of the Koodangulam plant and is seeking four more reactors of 1,000 mw each and nuclear fuel from Russia.

Russia has been under pressure from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which it joined in 1992 (the Koodangulam deal was signed earlier in 1988), not to assist India further as it refuses to accept full-scope safeguards. Such safeguards to prevent proliferation require a detailed accounting of nuclear fuel in all Indian nuclear installations by the International Atomic Energy Agency. India is against full-scope safeguards, preferring only facility-specific ones.

However, to make it easier for Russia to extend further co-operation, India is bringing new legislation to prevent proliferation. The Prime Minister thus told Putin: 'The issues that existed earlier will no longer exist after a month or two.'

The decision to set up a joint study group on economic co-operation was the result, according to Indian ambassador Kanwal Sibal, of 'both sides noting that economic and trade relations were not at the level they should be'.

High-tech co-operation, especially for the peaceful uses of space, as in setting up the global navigation sputnik system (Glonass), was also discussed. India’s involvement in Glonass is significant because it is a rival to the US global positioning system (GPS).

Putin also extended support to Indian companies investing in the oil sector in Russia where ONGC-Videsh is emerging as a player. Putin, according to Sibal, said: 'Our co-operation with India is based on a high level of trust.'

He looked forward to the Indian President’s visit to Russia later this month. Singh himself is expected to visit Moscow in November for the annual India-Russia summit.

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