India, Russia sign milestone nuclear pact, vow to fight terror (Lead)

December 5th, 2008 - 10:20 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 5 (IANS) India’s “time-tested ties” with Russia crossed “a new milestone” Friday as the two countries signed a landmark civil nuclear accord that envisages Moscow building four more reactors in Tamil Nadu and vowed to intensify their cooperation in combating terrorism. The two strategic partners, whose ties have “withstood the test of time”, signed 10 agreements in areas ranging from civil space programme, civil nuclear cooperation, economy, tourism and defence, and combatting terrorism.

The two countries also sought to infuse new energy in their sluggish economic ties by setting a target of $10 billion bilateral trade by 2010 and signed an accord on the purchase of 80 MI-17V-5 Russian helicopters by India. With the global financial crisis as a backdrop, the two countries also made a vigorous pitch for reform of international financial institutions.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, who began his maiden visit to India Thursday, on a wide spectrum of bilateral, regional and global issues that are set to cement old ties and bring them in tune with the 21st century realities.

Reiterating their commitment to a multi-polar world, the two countries discussed a host of global issues, including terrorism, the global financial crisis, the Iranian nuclear issue, trilateral cooperation between India, Russia and China, and reform of leading international institutions. Russia agreed to host the BRIC summit of Brazil, India, Russia and China next year.

Describing strategic partnership with Russia as “a vital anchor of India’s foreign policy”, Manmohan Singh underlined that the relationship was based on “strong mutual trust, confidence and convergence of interests”.

“The signing of the agreement on civil nuclear cooperation with Russia marks a new milestone in the history of our cooperation with Russia in the field of nuclear energy,” Manmohan Singh said after the inking of the civil nuclear agreement between the two countries.

“It will open a new important stage in our bilateral ties,” Medvedev said.

The nuclear agreement was inked by Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodkar and Director General of the Russian State Corporation Rosatom Sergei Kiriyenko in the presence of the two leaders, making Russia the third country to sign a nuclear accord with India after the Sep 6 waiver by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

An agreement on joint activities in human space-flight programme was inked between the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Russian Federal Space Agency.

With the Nov 26 Mumbai terror attack underlining the global nature of terrorism, the two leaders also focused on steps to intensify cooperation to combat the common threat of terrorism.

“Both sides call upon all states to cooperate actively with and provide support and assistance to the Indian authorities in their efforts to find and bring the perpetrators, organisers, sponsors, patrons or those in any way connected to these barbaric acts to justice in India,” a joint declaration issued later noted.

Manmohan Singh conveyed to Medvedev “the sense of anger and outrage in India over the terrorist attacks in Mumbai” and thanked Russia for its “solidarity with India at this moment”.

“We both agreed that these attacks represent a threat to all open and pluralistic societies, and require a major intensification of efforts against supporters and perpetrators of terrorism anywhere in the world,” Manmohan Singh said. The Mumbai terror attacks left 172 dead.

“We remain ready to cooperate in this area. We remain ready to provide assistance,” Medvedev said at a joint press conference with Manmohan Singh.

With bilateral defence ties showing some strain in recent years due to pricing differences and other logistical issues, the two leaders also spent a “substantial amount of time” in adding new muscle to defence ties. Russia supplies nearly 70 percent of India’s military hardware.

The Russian president acknowledged that there were “outstanding issues of working nature”, but underlined that the two sides were discussing freely.

“There is nothing special about them,” he said. Issues relating to T-90 tanks and the development and leasing of nuclear-powered submarines were discussed.

Medvedev was alluding to price differences over the purchase of a Soviet-era aircraft carrier, the 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov, which is being refurbished by a Russian firm.

The two sides agreed to resolve the pricing issue within three months as Russia has more than doubled the original price of the carrier to over $2 billion.

Rejuvenating sluggish economic ties also figured prominently in the discussions.

Manmohan Singh said that the two leaders have asked senior officials to activate the existing and new mechanisms such as Inter-Governmental Commission, the Joint Task Force, the India-Russia Trade and Investment Forum, and the India- Russia CEOs Council to achieve $10 billion by 2010.

Three economic related agreements were signed, including a memorandum of understanding between the Securities and Exchange Board of India and Federal Financing Service and an MoU between two co-chairs of the CEOs Council - Mukesh Ambani, managing director of Reliance Industries Limited, and Vladimir Yevtushenkov, chairman of Sistema Group.

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