Medvedev Signs Indian Nuclear Deal

ria-novostiMedvedev, center, paying his respects at a memorial to Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi on Friday.
President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday signed agreements to develop new nuclear plants in India as the countries sought to deepen ties beyond their historic defense and weapon sales relationship.

The deal will allow Russia to build more reactors at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and plants elsewhere in the country, the Indian government said in a statement.

Russia agreed in January 2007 to help India in the construction of four energy blocks at the atomic plant in Kudankulam and nuclear power plants at new sites in India.

"The signing of the agreement on civil nuclear cooperation with Russia marks a new milestone in the history of our cooperation with Russia in the field of nuclear energy," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a news conference with Medvedev.

Russia is competing with the United States for influence in India, a Cold War ally of Moscow, which the Kremlin sees as a growing partner in Asia.

"The cooperation in the energy sector remains a priority for us," Medvedev said. "We are very interested in developing cooperation in the nuclear sector. It is especially important now that various energy sectors are being developed."

Separately, Tvel, Russia's nuclear-fuel monopoly, agreed to deliver nuclear fuel worth $700 million to other Indian power stations, said Sergei Kiriyenko, head of state nuclear company Rosatom.

Both countries signed a contract worth more than $1 billion for India to buy 80 Mi-17 transport helicopters, said Anatoly Isaikin, head of state-run arms monopoly Rosoboronexport.

India, which wants to buy billions of dollars of weapons as it rearms, has been unhappy with holdups on major Russian arms contracts, including a delay to a $1.5 billion aircraft carrier modernization.

"Our main task is to switch from buying or selling weapons to jointly designing and producing them. We have such plans in rocket building and aviation," Medvedev said.

India, along with China, is one of Russia's biggest clients for arms sales.

The two also signed a deal to cooperate on future manned space flight and in building an astronaut training center, said Anatoly Perminov, head of Russia's Federal Space Agency.

The first Indian cosmonaut is expected to fly on the Soyuz rocket in 2013, he said. India launched its first unmanned moon mission Chandrayaan-1 on Oct. 22, joining the Asian space race in the footsteps of rival China.

Russian companies plan to enter into the exploration and extraction of natural resources with Indian partners, Medvedev said. The two sides also want to develop relations in areas such as metals, machine building, pharmaceuticals, space, biotechnology and information technology.

Russia and India, partners in the so-called BRIC nations, which also includes China and Brazil, are looking to boost trade to $10 billion by 2010. Medvedev said in Rio de Janeiro last month that BRIC countries should play a greater role in shaping up the new global financial architecture.

Medvedev postponed a planned trip to Italy on Saturday after the death of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II, spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said. The president returned to Moscow later Friday after concluding his official visit to New Delhi.

Reuters, Bloomberg