Agreement will focus on research and development, setting up of civil nuclear plants

India will soon sign its ninth civil nuclear agreement with its negotiators having finalised the text with South Korea, say government sources. “This freezing of the text adds another dimension to the possibilities for India to access civil nuclear technology from another country,” add the sources.

The countries with which India has signed similar pacts are Russia, the United States, France, Mongolia, Argentina, Kazakhstan, the United Kingdom and Canada. Some are pure fuel supplies pact while others include all aspects of the relationship such as fuel supply, R&D and setting up of civil nuclear plants. The pact with South Korea will focus on the last two aspects.

South Korea recently joined the ranks of civil nuclear power exporters when it bagged $20 billion worth of orders from the United Arab Emirates beating stiff competition from the French company Areva for building four nuclear plants. “However, the possibility of Korea Electric Power Corporation getting orders from India will have to await its negotiations with the Department of Atomic Energy and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited,” said the sources.

The civil nuclear pact was a result of the all-round comprehensive relationship being forged by India with East Asian and South East Asian countries. India has signed a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CEPA) with South Korea which, in the first full year of operation in 2010, led to a 46 per cent growth in trade.

Interestingly, the growth rate of both South Korean and Indian exports were the same during this period.

This initiative was cemented by high-level visits that catered to other aspects of the relationship. “But for Posco, it has otherwise been a good year for India's ties with South Korea,” said the sources while pointing out that the Korean Finance Minister was here in January and in a meeting with his counterpart Pranab Mukherjee decided to hold a meeting of the two every year. This annual summit arrangement at the Finance Ministers' level would attend to pending policy issues as well as increased proximity in the similarity of views of both countries on the global economic crises at G-20 forum. This was followed by a visit by the Trade Minister who took stock of the progress made after the introduction of CEPA.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna visited Seoul but what added ballast to the relationship was Defence Minister A.K. Antony signing two pacts, including a general defence cooperation agreement. In October, in another gesture of political proximity, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi went to South Korea to ink a social security agreement.

Agreement with Japan?

With the civil nuclear agreement in the bag and CEPA showing good results, India is all set to sign a similar agreement with Japan following the arrival of Commerce & Industries Minister Anand Sharma in Tokyo. He will call on Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Tuesday to discuss ongoing cooperation in infrastructure projects.

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