Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ended his visit to Russia without clinching a deal on getting reactors for the Kudankulam nuclear project, but he and Russian President Vladimir Putin asked their officials to resolve issues "at the earliest".
Officials of the two counties were discussing the proposed third and fourth units of the Russian-built plant in Tamil Nadu and they were "down to a word or two". The lawyers are looking at it, said India's Ambassador to Russia Ajay Malhotra. He did not specify how long the two sides had been stuck at this stage.
Negotiations have been stuck over provisions under the Civil Liabilities for Nuclear Damage Act that makes the supplier liable in case of a nuclear accident and does not cap this liability. Russia has opposed to the project being put under the ambit of the civil liability law and wants it to be covered under the inter-governmental agreement on the issue.
Singh, who was speaking hours before the first unit of the Kudankulam plant was linked to the southern power grid in Tamil Nadu, called the nuclear project an "important symbol of the strategic partnership" between India and Russia.
“We have directed our officials to resolve all outstanding issues at the earliest," the Prime Minister said at the Green Drawing Room of the Grand Kremlin Palace at the end of the 14th Annual India Russia Summit as he gave Putin his commitment “to fully implement the road map on civil nuclear cooperation”.
Putin said he was happy that the first reactor had gone critical and was poised to be connected to the electricity grid “in a few hours”.
The Kudankulam plant, with a projected electricity generation capacity of 6,000 mw, is the country's biggest nuclear power project and is designed to help meet the rising demand for electricity in the country.
The two sides took the first steps towards exploring the possibility of a land gas pipeline from Russia to India deepen their economic engagement. “Both sides also agreed to set up a joint study group in this regard,” a joint statement issued at the end of the four-hour long meeting said.
Indian foreign secretary Sujatha Singh later conceded that the pipeline was still some way away but emphasised that the proposal was an indicator of the vision that the two countries shared. Once it comes up, it would be truly transformational, she said.