India, Russia to remove hurdles to Kudankulam nuclear plant

India, Russia to remove hurdles to Kudankulam nuclear plant

In a bid to overcome legal hitches that have held up a deal on two new plants at the Kudankulam nuclear power complex over liability provisions, India and Russia today pledged to "resolve all outstanding issues" related to the project even as they decided to elevate their strategic ties to new levels in defence and other areas.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who met President Vladimir Putin at Kremlin Palace for restricted and delegation-level talks that went beyond schedule by over 90 minutes, told a joint news interaction that the extraordinary history of bilateral relations gave him confidence that the growing convergence of interests and expanding opportunities would take the strategic partnership to "even greater heights".

This was Singh's fifth annual summit with Putin and the 14th summit between the two countries.

Against the backdrop of hurdles that have come in the way of finalising a deal for two new reactors in Kudankulam, the two leaders pledged to reach an agreement on setting up Units 3 and 4. Russia is opposing the application of liability clauses under a new Indian law.
A joint statement issued at the end of the talks said the two sides agreed to "expeditiously finalise" the General Framework Agreement and the techno-commercial offer for Units 3 and 4 of Kudankulam.

"I conveyed to President Putin our commitment to fully implement the road map on civil nuclear cooperation that was  signed during Putin's visit to India in 2010," he said.
"We have directed our officials to resolve all outstanding issues at the earliest."

At the news interaction, Putin expressed happiness at the Russian-made Unit 1 of Kudankulam attaining criticality in July and said it would join the power grid "in the next few hours".

Singh said Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is an important symbol of the bilateral strategic partnership and they looked forward to commercial power production from Unit 1 shortly and the completion of work on Unit 2 next year.

Both leaders and the joint statement touched on various areas of cooperation between the two sides, including defence, energy, high-technology trade, investment, space, science, education, culture and tourism.

They noted that despite the fragile global economic situation, bilateral trade grew by 25 per cent last year to touch USD 11 billion.

Putin noted the high level of defence cooperation, especially the joint development and production of the fifth generation fighter aircraft and the multi-role transport aircraft.
They also referred to India's growing interest in opportunities in gas and oil exploration in Russia.

The two countries noted that their stand on international issues like Afghanistan, Syria and Iran were "very close" as India lauded Russia's role in seeking a peaceful resolution of the nuclear crisis with Iran and the Syrian problem.

Later, at a briefing by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, Indian Ambassador Ajai Malhotra said the lawyers of the two sides were holding discussions on legal issues related to Units 3 and 4 of the Kudankulam project "even as we speak and it is all down to a word or two".

Asked whether by saying "down to a word or two" he was implying that all the Russian concerns over the liability law were no longer there, he said, "They are important words but it can be responded to only when the deal is concluded. Let's wait. At this moment, you cannot guess."

When another journalist persisted with the issue, the Foreign Secretary said, "Let's leave it at that."

On terrorism, the joint statement condemned the scourge in all its forms and manifestations and the two sides agreed that there should be no tolerance for sheltering, arming, training or financing terrorists.

"In multi-ethnic and democratic societies such as India and the Russian Federation, terrorist acts perpetrated under misleading slogans are in reality attacks on the freedom and democratic values of our societies and are aimed at undermining the territorial integrity of our nations," it said.

"Such acts may have international linkages extending across and beyond the borders. States that provide aid, abetment and shelter for such terrorist activities are themselves as guilty as the actual perpetrators of terrorism."

Incidents like the Mumbai attacks and Beslan terror attack, which resulted in the death of civilians, cannot be justified on any grounds, it said.

"Both sides reaffirmed the obligation of all states to vanquish terrorism from their territories and areas under their control," the statement said.

"They need to irreversibly shut down terrorist networks, organisations and infrastructure, and show tangible movement in investigating and bringing quickly to justice all those responsible for acts of terrorism."

On the issue of combating terrorism, Putin said the two sides would do everything at the national and international levels to tackle the menace. "We will do everything to counter terrorism and punish the criminals," he said.

Asked whether Pakistan figured in discussions on terrorism, Foreign Secretary Singh said both Pakistan and the issue of terrorism came up in the context of talks on issues related to the region.

In his remarks, Prime Minister Singh said India and Russia share similar perspectives on developments in their extended neighbourhood.

"Terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking emanating from this area endanger security and stability in our region and beyond," he said.

"We have agreed to intensify our coordination and cooperation for promoting security and development in the region. We also emphasised our shared interest in a peaceful transition in Afghanistan next year."

On bilateral relations, the Prime Minister said Putin and he agreed that the strategic partnership between the two sides "remains a matter of the highest priority for our two nations, based on our shared belief in the enduring value of this relationship, both for our mutual benefit and as a factor for global peace and stability."

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