India and Russia have finalised the text of an overarching framework for nuclear cooperation which will ensure that no ongoing nuclear power project or uranium fuel supply arrangement with the Russian side would be affected or stopped in the event of termination of bilateral cooperation for any reason.
This assurance, which mirrors a similar provision in the Indo-French nuclear cooperation agreement, is considered by India a major improvement over the ‘123 Agreement’ it had signed with the United States. That agreement provides for not just termination of ongoing cooperation but also for the return to the U.S. of already supplied components and fuel in the event of the agreement being terminated.
The signing of the Indo-Russian agreement, whose language was settled late on Wednesday night, will be the highlight of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Moscow beginning on Sunday, highly placed sources told The Hindu.
Although the Russians baulked at explicitly including enrichment and reprocessing technology within the ambit of the agreement, the question had been subsumed under the rubric of broad-based cooperation in nuclear R&D, the sources said, and could be fleshed out later.
Among the other highlights of the proposed agreement are built-in reprocessing consent rights for all future Russian reactors supplied to India. At present, this consent has been separately detailed in the Kudankulam reactor agreement. The draft also provides for India to enrich Russian-supplied uranium up to 20 per cent, the level necessary for the production of medical isotopes. “Thus this pact goes beyond present agreements on fuel supply assurances, new sites and setting up of reactors,” said sources.
With the Cabinet Committee on Security giving its approval on Wednesday, the stage is also set for the procurement of additional fighters as well, said highly placed sources. The CCS also considered a pact to jointly develop a multi-role transport aircraft (MTA). The two sides will also extend their military cooperation agreement up to 2020 which will emphasise the move away from a buyer-seller relationship.
Following the discovery of fake drugs in Indian consignments to Russia, the two sides will sign an agreement on ensuring the safety and quality of medical products. Besides giving a boost to pharmaceutical exports to Russia, standard setting could also enhance prospects of exporting to Central Asian countries which are also keen to import Indian medicines.
To once again make Russia an attractive destination for Indian students, the two sides are likely to come to an agreement on the recognition of Russian diplomas. While only 5,000 India students are in Russia, the corresponding figure for the U.S. and Australia is about one lakh each.
Apart from the umbrella nuclear agreement, much store is being put on the MTA project as it will give India an opportunity to enter the global export market. According to the project report, over 200 MTAs in various configurations will be made. Russia will buy 100, India 45 and about 60 will be exported to third countries. Although there is confusion over the identity of the Russian partner, sources expect the first plane to roll out six years after the project takes off.