Days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh departs on an official tour of Russia and China, the Cabinet Committee on Security has approved continuing the BrahMos missile programme with Russia beyond 15 years and a new agreement with China to maintain peace and amity along the 3,588-km Sino-Indian border.
Moscow and New Delhi, however, are yet to break the deadlock on the nuclear accident liability issue, casting a shadow on the signing of a pact between Russia and India on setting up two more nuclear reactors at Kudankulam, in addition to two 1000 MWe reactors already in place.
The two sides have been holding a dialogue for months now to sort out the thorny liability issues before an agreement is inked to set up Units 3 and 4 at Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, during Singh's annual summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week.
As India’s new liability law and rules are nagging the Russians, the public sector General Insurance Corporation (GIC) was asked by the government to work on issues relating to insurance and compensation taking into account provisions in the liability clause.
India is keen on sorting out matters because of the nuclear liability Act, which has so far blocked entry of foreign players to romp up India’s ambitious nuclear power programme.
“We have told the Russians that we are the operators and they don’t have any liability. The operator has the right of recourse.
The liability clause is circumscribed by various conditions,” officials said. The suppliers, however, are not buying the government's arguments and wanted more clarity on the contentious law.
The CCS has, meanwhile, approved India’s continued partnership with Russia on BrahMos missile project. The 15-year partnership was signed in 1998 and is valid up to February 2014.
The BrahMos cruise missile, jointly developed by India and Russia, is capable of carrying a conventional warhead of 300 kg. It can cruise at a maximum speed of 2.8 Mach (2.8 times the speed of sound).
India has two versions of the missile for the Navy and the Army. A third version for Indian Air Force’s Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft is under development.
The CCS also put its stamp of approval on border defence cooperation agreement (BDCA) between India and China, under negotiation over the last several months.
BDCA seeks to institutionalise the standard operating procedures the two countries follow while guarding the unmarked border. In the absence of any demarcation, intrusions from both sides take place, triggering flare-ups along the border.