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Russia-India Nuclear Deal Finalized
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Russia and India on Thursday signed nine agreements, including one arranging for Russia to assist India in building nuclear plants in Tamil Nadu and other places in the country.

"Energy security is the most important of the emerging dimensions of our strategic partnership," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a joint news conference.

The deal indicated Moscow's refusal to trail others in winning lucrative nuclear contracts with India, a month after US President George W. Bush signed laws effectively ending a ban on civilian nuclear trade with India.

Two Russian reactors are already under construction in India, whose rapid economic growth has caused energy demands to rocket.

Four more reactors will be built at the Kudankulam nuclear power station in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, according to a joint statement, provided the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers' Group lifts its restrictions on India this year.

Russia and India also pledged to work together to build more Russian-designed nuclear plants at other sites in India.

Gas pipeline

The breadth of the cooperation between the two sides is not limited to nuclear energy. "We are ready to brave new horizons in fuel energy cooperation," Putin said. "Russian companies are ready to intensify and broaden cooperation in this area."

India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp Ltd (ONGC) and Russia's state-run Rosneft signed a comprehensive deal Thursday covering a range of joint energy projects from drilling to retailing, an ONGC official said.

The two companies are already partners in the Sakhalin-1 oil field and are exploring a joint bid for the Sakhalin-3 field ahead of its auction.

Russia has also expressed an interest in helping build a pipeline to transport Iranian natural gas to India and Pakistan.

Defense ties are also close, another area in which Russia faces growing competition from the United States.

For now India is the second-biggest buyer of Russian weapons after China. Up to 80 percent of weapons and hardware now in use by New Delhi have been supplied by Moscow, experts say.

Tanks and fighters

Earlier in the week, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia would pitch its MiG-35 combat jet in an Indian tender for 126 fighter aircraft.

Russia also wishes to work with India in developing a fifth-generation fighter, while the two countries signed a deal on Wednesday to jointly design and build a transport aircraft.

India's Defense Minister A. K. Antony said plans to buy at least 300 Russian T-90 tanks, as well as fighters and military helicopters, were also discussed.

Since the Cold War alliance between Moscow and New Delhi collapsed along with the Soviet Union, Russia has maintained a "strategic partnership" with India.

Besides an annual summit with Singh on Thursday, Putin will be the guest of honor at India's Republic Day celebrations on Friday, a reflection of continuing close ties between the two countries.

(China Daily via Agencies January 26, 2007)


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