Russia offers to build India 4 nuclear reactors

Memorandum of understanding inked Thursday by heads of Russian, Indian nuclear agencies.

russia india nuclear (photo credit: AP)
russia india nuclear
(photo credit: AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to build four new nuclear reactors for energy starved India on Thursday, cementing his country's traditional role as India's main nuclear benefactor. A memorandum of understanding on the plants was inked by the heads of the Russian and Indian nuclear agencies after a meeting between Putin and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Putin arrived in India on Thursday, hoping to use the two nations' decades-long friendship to push for deals in civilian nuclear cooperation, military hardware and trade expansion between the booming economies. Russia has been eager to reassert its traditional role as the chief supplier of nuclear technology and know-how to India in the wake of a landmark civilian nuclear cooperation deal between New Delhi and Washington last year that appeared to give US companies a strong position in India's nuclear market. Russia is currently helping India build two 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors in the southern town of Kudankulam. The document said that the four new reactors would be built at Kudankulam and at other sites, but did not outline a timetable or other specifics. Russia has in the past stood by India, supplying it with reactors and fuel even as it was denied Western technology for its refusal to sign the international Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Speaking after their meeting, Singh thanked Russia for its support "in lifting international restrictions on nuclear cooperation and assisting India in the expansion of our nuclear energy program," and said nuclear energy was emerging as the most important aspect of India and Russia's "strategic partnership." Energy cooperation is vital for India, which has struggled to supply adequate power to its burgeoning economy that has been growing at more than 8 percent in recent years. Despite India's rapid recent development, power cuts remain frequent across the country. Putin, who will be the guest of honor at India's Jan. 26 Republic Day celebrations during his two-day visit, came to India looking to cash in on Cold War ties that bound the two countries for years - but then slackened as India's burgeoning market attracted other players. Signifying the importance India attaches to Russia, Singh broke with protocol to personally welcome Putin and his wife Lyudmila, officials and a delegation of high-profile Russian business leaders at the airport - an honor previously given only to US President George W. Bush and Saudi King Abdullah. The two countries also signed a series of agreements on scientific, space, aviation and economic cooperation, including giving India access to Russia's satellite navigation system, GLONASS. India and Russia also signaled their intent to forge ahead with military ties with two new arms deals: an agreement allowing the licensed production of Russian aircraft engines in India, and another for the joint development of a military transport plane. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and his Indian counterpart A. K. Antony signed the agreements in New Delhi on Wednesday. "The development of a close and trusting relationship with India is a top priority for Russia's foreign policy," Ivanov said after the signing.