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Russia, India oppose weaponisation of space

They were responding to a question on China's recent launch of an anti-satellite missile system, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Jan 25, 2007 21:58 IST

Saying, "we should not let the genie out of the bottle," Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday expressed his country's opposition to the weaponisation of outer space.

Concurring with Russia's position, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India was not in favour of weaponisation of outer space.

They were responding to a question on China's recent launch of an anti-satellite missile system.

"Our fundamental position is that our space should be absolutely weapons free," Putin said during a joint press conference with Singh after their detailed discussions.

"China is not the first country to conduct such tests," he said, recalling that the process had begun in the 1980's and that the United States was planning to place weapons in space.

The foreign ministers of China, Russia and India are likely to meet next month to explore avenues to take the trilateral initiative forward. The first summit meeting to promote cooperation between the three countries, an idea initially mooted by Russia, was held in July 2006 in Saint Petersburg, on the sidelines of the G-8 outreach session.

Speaking of trilateral cooperation among India, Russia and China, Putin said that the countries believed work in this direction in future was promising. He also said economic activities involving Russia, India, China and Brazil would be significant in the coming years.

Responding to a question on how they would tackle the outstanding Rupee debt, left over from the era of Rupee-Rouble trade when the Soviet Union was in existence, the Indian Prime Minister said the resources would be used in joint ventures in this country.

India and the Russian Federation had signed an agreement in 1993, by which India agreed to repay the amount it owed in dollars. India agreed to repay 900 million dollars annually for 12 years, ending 2005.

Among the joint projects for which the money would be used, Singh said, was the project to jointly develop a Multi-Role Transport Aircraft. The funds would also be used to jointly produce titanium dioxide.

A senior official clarified that there was no agreement yet on the use of these funds to build the additional units at the Kudankulam nuclear power reactor in Tamil Nadu.

The most significant aspect of this seventh Indo-Russian summit, however, is the enhanced cooperation in peaceful uses of civil nuclear energy. In the joint statement on 'Cooperation in the field of Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy,' Putin and Singh "reaffirm their commitment to work together to expand civil nuclear energy cooperation."

The cooperation is "aimed at enabling India to realize its goals of promoting nuclear power and achieving energy security in a self-sustaining manner," the joint statement says.

The two countries will, in 2007, work out a comprehensive programme of cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy and shortly sign an agreement to construct four additional power units at Kudankulam. "India undertakes that the reactor facilities and nuclear fuel supplied by Russia shall remain under IAEA safeguards during the entire period of their actual use," the statement says. India will conclude a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency before the reactors are built.

"Russia will continue to work with the participating governments of the NSG in order to create conditions through amendment to its guidelines to facilitate expansion of civil nuclear energy cooperation with India." The statement makes it clear that Russia will not bypass the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group in cooperating with India, but will push for the India–specific waiver from the group. The joint statement categorises India and Russia as "states possessing advanced nuclear technologies."

"We appreciate Russia's support in lifting international restrictions on nuclear cooperation and assisting India in expansion of our nuclear energy programme," Singh said.

The Prime Minister said he and Putin agreed that economic relations between the two countries were not consistent with the dimensions of strategic ties. Both countries have agreed to work on expanding economic cooperation. The Joint Study Group was now exploring the possibility for charting out a comprehensive economic cooperation, he said. Singh said the two countries also decided to boost cooperation in the fields of science, space, information and communication.