Russia defends decision to supply uranium to Tarapur plant

TOWARDS STRONGER TIES: Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov at a business meeting in New Delhi on Thursday. Shiv Vikram Khemka, Chairman, CII Russia Committee, looks on.   | Photo Credit: Photo: SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY

Special Correspondent

Says it does not contradict or violate any international commitment

NEW DELHI: Russia on Thursday said its decision to supply uranium to Tarapur did not contradict or violate any international commitment since it fell within the four corners of the international framework.

"We are cooperating on this matter. We have served this issue within international framework and it does not contradict international commitments," Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said at a business meeting, breaking his country's silence over U.S. reservations on the supply of uranium for the Tarapur plant.

Asked whether Russia was surprised at the U.S. opposition, he said: "We have informed the Nuclear Suppliers Group about the supply of fuel to the Tarapur Atomic Power Station ... The sale of uranium is in the interest of both the countries [India and Russia]." He indicated his country's openness about cooperating with India within the framework of its international obligations under the NPT.

Russia heeded to India's urgent request for 60 metric tonnes of uranium to TAPS to enable it to function with "safety." However, Washington expressed reservations to the move, saying such a step should be taken only after India fulfilled its obligations under the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal.

The Safety Exception Clause of NSG Guidelines allows fuel transfers by members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group if there are grounds to believe that depriving a reactor of fuel could create a nuclear danger.

Acknowledging that was vast potential for economic cooperation between the two countries, Mr. Fradkov asked India to urgently address the issue of rupee debt and acceptance of bank guarantees by Russian banks in order.

"We will be taking up these issues and the issue of visa relaxation with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the meeting scheduled for Friday," Mr. Fradkov said.

He identified information technology, telecom, air space, nuclear cooperation, metals and construction among high priority areas for trade cooperation. The two countries could implement 10 projects worth billions of dollars if they resolved the issue of rupee debt, he said.

Russia and India are planning to triple trade turnover to $10 billion by 2010.

Union Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said the memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries mandated tripling of trade and greater business-to-business engagement to take bilateral trade to a much higher level.

Bilateral trade was no way commensurate with the potential that existed.

FICCI chief Saroj Kumar Poddar and Assocham president Anil K. Aggarwal emphasised the dynamic and multifaceted economic partnership between the two countries. At the same time, they focused on the visa problems faced by businessmen for visiting Russia. They wanted immediate steps to ease the grant of visa for business visits.