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India, Russia brush aside US concerns
March 17, 2006 19:18 IST
"Desperately short" of hydrocarbon resources, India on Friday sought expansion of civil nuclear cooperation with Russia and talked about the possibility of involving Moscow in the Iran-India gas pipeline project.
India also thanked Russia for its decision to supply urgently needed 60 metric tonne of uranium to the Tarapur Atomic Plant Station. After about two-hour long talks with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Fradkov in New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India envisioned a "substantial increase" in the share of nuclear energy in its overall energy mix as he appreciated Moscow's decision to supply uranium to the Tarapur plant.
Addressing a joint press conference, Dr Singh and Fradkov said the two countries had set up a Joint Study Group to enhance cooperation in trade and investment with an aim of raising the bilateral trade volume to US $10 billion by 2010 and agreed to soon conclude an agreement allowing investment of funds from the Rupee-Rouble debt account in India.
The two countries signed various agreements, including two related to implementation of cooperation in respect of the Global Satellite Navigation System.
"I am confident that both countries will utilise opportunities to expand our partnership in civil nuclear energy cooperation," Dr Singh said.
"I would like to convey our warm appreciation to the Russian government for responding positively to meet the requirements for nuclear fuel supplies to Tarapur I and II," Dr Singh said.
The US has expressed reservations to the move to supply uranium, saying such a step should be taken only after India fulfilled its obligations under the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
However, both India and Russia have brushed aside the US reservations saying the move did not violate the NSG guidelines. During the talks between Dr Singh and Fradkov, India is understood to have sought expediting of supplies of material and equipment by Russia for under-construction Kudankulam nuclear project.
Under a deal of 2001, Russia had committed to supply 90 per cent of material and equipment to Units I and II of the plant, scheduled to be operational by 2007 and 2008 respectively.
"We see the Kudankulam project as a flagship of our cooperation in the field of nuclear energy," Dr Singh said.
He said his discussions with Fradkov were focused on giving a "new depth" to the strategic partnership between the two countries and that India looked forward to working closely, bilaterally and multilaterally, with Russia.
The prime minister said the growing economies of India and Russia offered considerable scope for cooperation in energy, information technology, biotechnology and high- technology commerce.
"While we explore ways at the government level to promote our economic ties, business communities must develop greater interaction and business-to-business contacts. Private sector partnerships must be the new cementing force in our relations. Greater facilitation of business travel will help in this regard," he said.
Dr Singh said he has accepted President Vladimir Putin's invitation to attend the G-8 Summit being hosted by Russia in St Petersburg in July this year.
Asked about the prospects of Russia's involvement in the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, Singh said "ways and means can be explored" in this regard considering that Moscow had the experience and expertise in building such pipelines.
Fradkov said if such a suggestion is put forward, Russia would consider it.
"India is desperately short of hydrocarbon resources and therefore we are interested in entering into bilateral and trilateral arrangements to meet the gaps, Dr Singh said, noting that the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project was being pursued in this context.
Describing Russia as a "tried and tested friend", Dr Singh said, "Ours is a strategic partnership based on trust, confidence and abiding convergence of national interests."
As large modernising economies, the two countries have an interest in strengthening bilateral cooperation and jointly making global interdependence beneficial, he said.
Terming his visit as a "success" and "very substantial", Fradkov said Russia has drawn up a "business-action plan" to bolster economic and trade ties between the two countries.
He assured to amicably sort out the procedural problems, mainly related to visa requirements, encountered by Indian businessmen wishing to do business in Russia.
"We want efficient business-to-business relations," he said. The two sides were discussing bilateral and trilateral arrangements for accelerating the pace of development, he said.