Moscow, Oct 20: India and Russia are “very close” to clinching a commercial deal on the third and fourth reactors for the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu with only the legal vetting of the deal left to be done, said informed sources Sunday.
As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Moscow on the first leg of his visit to Russia and China, informed sources, however, said the commercial agreement on the third and fourth nuclear reactors would not be inked during the current visit.
“We are very close to an agreement, we have settled most of the issues … it is with the lawyers of both sides at present … In any case, it won’t be signed in Moscow during the prime minister’s visit,” the source said.
Russia has set up two 1,000 MW nuclear reactors in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu of which the first is set to produce electricity in a few months and the second one is slated to attain criticality in six months’ time.
With regard to the third and fourth reactors, Moscow had voiced concern about India’s civil nuclear liability laws, according to which the onus falls on the supplier in case of an accident.
“It is only for the lawyers to say yes, it is in the last stage,” the source added.
To a question on the liability clause, the source said it was because of that aspect that the agreement is being vetted by lawyers from both sides.
“Everything has been settled, all that is done.”
Energy cooperation is set to form a major component of the talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Vladmir Putin Monday when the two meet for the annual India-Russia Summit.
With Russia known to have one of the world’s largest hydrocarbon reserves, India would be seeking to go in for exploration in oil and gas, especially in the Arctic region and the Far East of Russia. But no agreements are expected to be signed on the issue during the visit, a source said.
Manmohan Singh and Putin would also discuss international issues, especially Syria and Afghanistan.
Both sides have a similar approach On Syria — that the issues in the violence-wracked country have to be settled through a political process, the source added. Around 100,000 people have been killed in the ongoing civil war in Syria where rebels are seeking to overthrow the government of President Bashar al Assad and hundreds of thousands have fled the country.
India has consistently opposed any proposal for military intervention by the West in Syria.
On Afghanistan, both sides are very concerned about any return to radicalism and extremism and both sides have cooperated to prevent this earlier too, the source said.
Both share a “lot of fundamental commonality” on issues concerning Afghanistan. India has done a fair amount in terms of economic support to Afghanistan. On the security situation, especially with the international forces set to drawdown in 2014, both have the principle of “no boots on the ground” though India does train Afghanistan police and military.
Boosting trade, especially in pharmaceuticals, would also be an issue in the talks. Commerce Minister Anand Sharma had been to Russia thrice this year. Trade between India and Russia stands at just $11 billion, a far cry from what it is with the US and China.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Vladmiri Putin are set to go over the main pillars of the bilateral strategic partnership, including defence, energy, space, science and technology, economy.
(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)