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N-liability law to delay Russia deal

Indo-Russian relations received half the energy boost expected from the state visit of President Dmitry Medvedev. The two countries unveiled an ambitious oil and gas cooperation agreement, but failed to seal a commercial pact for the Kudankulam 3 and 4 nuclear reactors. Jayanth Jacob reports.

delhi Updated: Dec 22, 2010 00:26 IST
Jayanth Jacob

Indo-Russian relations received half the energy boost expected from the state visit of President Dmitry Medvedev. The two countries unveiled an ambitious oil and gas cooperation agreement, but failed to seal a commercial pact for the Kudankulam 3 and 4 nuclear reactors.

However, they renewed pledges for their long-standing defence relationship with a $ 30 billion (Rs 1.35 lakh crore) agreement to co-design a fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

President Medvedev arrived in the Capital on Monday night and met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday morning. The two countries signed 30 pacts across a wide range of sectors, in the presence of Medvedev and Singh.

Though last-minute efforts were made to seal the commercial contract for the Kudankulam 3 & 4 reactors in Tamil Nadu in time for the 11th India-Russia summit, negotiations floundered on India's recently passed nuclear liability law and the issue of pricing.

"They (the two leaders) reviewed the progress that has been made for the commissioning of Units 1 & 2 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project and the discussions for setting up additional units at Kudankulam including Units 3 & 4," said the joint statement.

A senior official involved with the discussions told HT that signing of a commercial contract for Kudankulam 3 & 4 would take some more time, as pricing and liability issues needed to be sorted out.

"We are hopeful of that being done at the earliest," he said.

Singh and Medvedev stressed the special status of the India-Russia relationship.

"Russia is a time tested friend of India that has stood by us in our times of need in the past," said Singh in his opening remarks at a joint-press interaction.

"Ours is a special and privileged strategic partnership. It is a partnership that has and will continue to develop independent of our relations with other countries.

Russia too struck all the right diplomatic notes with India. Medvedev repeated Moscow's support for a "deserving and strong" India to be permanently on an expanded UNSC. The joint statement also called upon Pakistan to punish the perpetrators of the 26/11 attack.

In the joint statement, the two countries agreed to promote specific projects to encourage direct business-to-business dialogue between Indian and Russian oil and gas companies, to ensure that the contacts result in concrete and mutually beneficial commercial agreements between the companies including joint ventures in upstream and downstream activities in India, Russia and third world countries.