'India working to reconcile Liability Act with international law to clear obstacles to the deal'

India and Russia are wrapping up talks on Kudankulam reactors 3 and 4 and would “shortly” sign related contracts, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday, reinforcing speculation that the deal may not be sealed during his two-day visit to Moscow that begins on Sunday.

“Indian and Russian companies have been holding negotiations on finalising arrangements for Kudankulam units 3 and 4, and I am confident that these contracts would be finalised shortly,” Dr. Singh told Russian journalists ahead of his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Indian officials earlier said they were working to “reconcile” the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act with international law to clear obstacles to the Kudankulam deal.

Dr. Singh reiterated India’s commitment to the “full implementation” of a road map both countries approved in 2010 for building 14 to 16 reactors in India.

The Prime Minister signalled India’s desire to seek bigger foothold in Russia’s energy sector, describing it as a “priority” area for bilateral cooperation. “We are looking to enhancing our participation in the Russian oil and gas sector. We are examining the feasibility of a proposal for direct surface transportation of hydrocarbons from Russia to India,” the Itar-Tass news agency quoted Dr. Singh as saying.

The two sides last month agreed to set up a joint study group to look into the construction of an oil pipeline from Russia to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Dr. Singh hailed the development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft and the multirole transport aircraft as “two flagship projects” between India and Russia that “symbolise the transformation of our defence cooperation from a buyer-seller relationship of the past to one that now also involves joint design, development and production of advanced defence platforms.”

Free trade pact

The Prime Minister called for an early signing of a free trade pact between India and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in order to expand New Delhi’s economic ties with the former Soviet States.

Dr. Singh said he “applauded” Mr. Putin’s efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict and “fully supported” the Russia-U.S. plan to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.

The coming India-Russia summit will be the 10th one for Dr. Singh, who, over the years developed perfect chemistry with Mr. Putin. Dr. Singh said he greatly valued his “close and friendly relations” with the Russian leader.

Officials familiar with restricted format meetings between the two leaders say they are marked by extraordinary trust and goodwill in discussing the most sensitive areas of bilateral cooperation and global affairs.

To this day Russia is the only country with which India holds bilateral summits on an annual basis, a tradition established 14 years ago and never interrupted. It is also the only country with which India has a minister-level commission on defence, which also meets every year.

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