India and Russia last week sought to strengthen their “special strategic partnership” by announcing a clutch of agreements in energy and defence, including Moscow’s help in building at least 12 nuclear reactors and a plan to manufacture advanced Russian military helicopters and defence spare parts in India.
Unveiling a “Druzhba-Dosti” vision statement for the next decade after a four-hour long meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitched for “at least 10 more (nuclear) reactors” with the highest standards of safety. “It will include manufacture of equipment and components in India. This also supports our Make in India policy,” he said.
A strategic vision document on nuclear power signed said both sides would strive to complete the construction and commissioning of “not less than 12 units” in the next two decades, in accordance with the 2008 agreement. Towards this objective, the Indian side agreed to expeditiously identify a second site, in addition to Kudankulam, for the construction of the Russian-designed nuclear power units in India.
“We have just signed a document of great significance - the strategic vision for strengthening Indian-Russian cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear power. It contains plans to build over 20 nuclear power units in India, as well as cooperation in building Russia-designed nuclear power stations in third countries, in the joint extraction of natural uranium, production of nuclear fuel and waste elimination. This will lay the foundation for our long-term mutually beneficial cooperation in the nuclear sector,” said Putin.
Russian government officials said Moscow has “in principle” agreed to the Indian nuclear liability law, factoring in the costs involved in the process. This led to the signing of the supplement to the General Framework Agreement (GFA) for Units 3 and 4 of Kudankulam nuclear power project between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Atomstroyexport. The issue of nuclear liability has been dogging the sector, as the American and French firms have not been able to overcome the issue. This has prevented the US and French nuclear firms from starting work on setting up the nuclear power projects in the last five years.
Stressing that Russia would remain India’s most important defence partner “even if India’s options have increased”, Modi said, “We discussed how to align our defence relations to India’s own priorities, including Make in India… Russia has offered to fully manufacture in India one of its most advanced helicopters. It includes the possibility of exports from India. It can be used for both military and civilian use. We will follow up on this quickly.”
He also proposed that Russia should locate in India manufacturing facilities for spares and components for its defence equipment. “He responded very positively to my request,” said Modi.
“During our meeting, we paid special attention to trade and economic issues. By the end of 2013, our trade turnover reached $10 billion, but we believe that this is absolutely insufficient. We had a detailed discussion on the practical measures required to diversify our mutual trade and further enhance investment; we agreed to stimulate companies in both countries to activate joint work and to speed up the transition to the use of national currencies in mutual settlements,” said Putin.