Crucial week ahead as US, Russian officials visit India
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Crucial week ahead as US, Russian officials visit India

India's efforts to drum up world support for N-deal will come under spotlight when Richard Boucher and Sergei Kiriyenko visit India.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2006 10:16 IST

India's efforts to drum up support for international civil nuclear cooperation will come under spotlight when US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher and Russian nuclear agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko come to New Delhi this week.

Kiriyenko, head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, starts his five-day visit to India on Thursday during which he is expected to discuss plans for four more nuclear power plants in Tamil Nadu.

Kiriyenko comes at a time when India has received the first batch of uranium fuel, estimated to be about 25 tonnes, for its two safeguarded power reactors at Tarapur in Maharashtra.

He will visit Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and review progress on the two Russian-supplied 1,000 MW atomic power stations at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu before coming to New Delhi April 9.

The decision to supply 60 tonnes of uranium fuel for the Tarapur plant was announced during the visit of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov last month.

The US was not happy with the Russian decision, but Moscow went ahead with the Indian request made under the safety exception clause of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

A day after Kiriyenko arrives in India, Boucher will be in New Delhi for talks with Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and other top Indian officials on the progress in the civil nuclear deal and on other bilateral issues.

This will be the first visit by a top American official after President George W Bush came to India in March and both countries announced a landmark civil nuclear deal.

India has "an important role to play" in the region, Boucher said in an interview ahead of his trip to India.

Unlike Kiriyekno, Boucher comes at a time when the India-US nuclear deal is floundering in Washington due to lukewarm support among legislators at Capitol Hill.

The Bush administration has floated draft legislation in Congress, but the lack of requisite support has fuelled speculation about Congressional approval being put on hold till next year.

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, during his visit to the US last week, gently warned US legislators against proposing changes that could upset the "very, very delicate balance" and might lead to the unravelling of the deal.

Discussions with Boucher, who has been deputed by the Bush administration to brief the NSG members on the India-US deal, will help New Delhi get a broader picture on the international stand on the issue.

First Published: Apr 04, 2006 10:16 IST