India, Russia sign nuclear pacts, seal Gorshkov deal


New Delhi : Infusing new vigour in their time-tested ties, India and Russia Friday signed a slew of pacts, including three nuclear accords that could see Moscow building at least 12 more nuclear reactors, and sealed the price of refitted aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov at $2.3 billion.

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Ending years of stagnation in their economic ties, the two sides decided to take their business relations beyond defence deals by signing agreements on oil exploration, trade in diamonds and import of fertilizers.

The defence ties, the bedrock of the India-Russia relationship for decades, saw a fresh surge with the two sides inking a military aviation agreement and sealing deals on Russia supplying 29 MiG-29K fighter jets and a Multi-Role Transport Aircraft.

The sealing of the long-delayed renegotiated deal for Admiral Gorshkov, renamed by India as INS Vikramaditya, fixing the price at $2.3 billion has removed an irritant in bilateral ties that had tended to cloud the decades-long defence ties between the two countries. Fourteen supplementary agreements were signed for finalisation of cost and other technical aspects of the carrier.

The new defence deals worth around $4 billion bolster Moscow’s position as the top arms suppliers to India, accounting for 60-70 percent of Indian military hardware, despite competition from France, Israel and the US in the Indian market.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held around two hours of talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is on a 22-hour visit to India, to accelerate bilateral cooperation across a range of areas spanning civil nuclear energy, space, high-technology to defence, hydrocarbons, trade and telecommunications.

Manmohan Singh described Putin as “the architect of the strategic partnership between India and Russia” and stressed that relations with Russia “are a key pillar of our foreign policy”.

“We regard Russia as a trusted and reliable strategic partner.”

Besides reviewing bilateral ties, the two sides discussed a cluster of issues, including counter-terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the upcoming Nuclear Summit in Washington and the international financial crisis.

The two sides resolved to step up cooperation in combating terrorism emanating from Pakistan and to intensify consultations on Afghanistan. “As far as terror groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan are concerned, it is a matter of worry for the entire region and, in fact, the whole world,” Putin said.

The two sides inked five agreements in the presence of the two leaders. Several other agreements were inked on the sidelines of the talks.

Giving a big push to civil nuclear cooperation, the two sides signed an intergovernmental cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy, initialled during Manmohan Singh’s trip to Moscow in December last year, and another one laying out a roadmap for serial construction of Russian-design reactors.

A separate commercial contract between India’s public sector nuclear monopoly NPCIL and Russia’s Atomstroy Export was also inked for building two more civil nuclear reactors of 1,000 Mw each at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

Russia is already building two reactors at this site. India has allocated another site for Russian nuclear reactors at Haripur in West Bengal. These nuclear agreements can mean Russia building at least 12 more nuclear reactors, giving it a distinct edge over other competitors like the US and France in India’s nuclear pie.

“So far it is clear that it will be 12 (reactors). And this is not the final figure,” Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian Atomic Agency, told reporters. He added that six reactors would be built between 2012 and 2017.

“This is one of our major, far-reaching, promising areas of interaction,” Putin said while talking with Indian businessman in Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi through video-conferencing.

Marking a new high in high-tech cooperation, the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) and the Russian space agency inked a pact on civilian application of the Russia Glonass (the Global Navigation Satellite System), the Russian equivalent of the US Global Positioning System.

The big breakthrough, however, came in a slew of pacts aimed at scaling up their current $7.5 billion bilateral trade to $20 billion by 2015. Besides two pacts on import of potash and mineral fertilizers, Russian state diamond monopoly Alrosa and Diamond India Ltd signed three more pacts. Two more pacts were signed between private diamond trading companies.

Russian state monopoly Gazprom also inked a protocol on cooperation with India’s ONGC on oil exploration in Russia.

Putin vowed to boost banking cooperation with India through joint ventures and offered state financial aid for Indian telecoms unit of Russian conglomerate Sistema. The two sides identified IT and telecom as future areas of economic cooperation.

“There is political will on both sides, but we need support from the captains of industry,” Putin said. “We should think about the future.”