02/13/2008, 00.00
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Russia and India strike deal for four more nuclear reactors

Economic, energy and military co-operation between the two former Soviet-era allies is up. For energy-thirsty India nuclear energy is essential.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Russian counterpart Victor Zubkov agreed that Russia will build four additional nuclear reactors at Kudankulam, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where Moscow is already building two light water nuclear power reactors. The two sides also signed agreements in the areas of oil, gas, transportation, energy, engineering and defence.

Officials said however that the construction of new reactors will begin only after the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls global nuclear commerce, lifts a three-decade old embargo on atomic trade with India because of its nuclear weapons programme.

India is in fact negotiating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to lose its status as a nuclear pariah following nuclear tests in 1998.

Two years ago India signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with the United States which has not yet been implemented because of leftwing opposition in India and IAEA sanctions imposed in 1998.

Nuclear energy is becoming for India the linchpin of its energy policy.

Delhi and Moscow have had close links since Soviet times. Both expect trade between the two countries to grow from US$ 5 billion today to US$ 10 billion in 2010.

Russia accounts for about 70 per cent of Indian military equipment but India has recently turned to other suppliers including the United Kingdom, France, Israel and the US.

Still in November they agreed to boost military ties. And Mr Singh yesterday said that Indo-Russian defence ties were an “important pillar” in their strategic partnership.

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