India should sign n-deal sooner than later: Russian envoy (Lead)

June 17th, 2008 - 7:22 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) India’s nuclear deal with the US has found support from Russia which wants New Delhi to sign it “sooner rather than later”. “India should sign the nuclear deal sooner than later. The sooner India signs the deal is better than later,” Vyacheslav I. Trubnikov, Russian ambassador to India, said here Tuesday.

Speaking on the eve of crucial talks between the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and Left parties on the stalled nuclear deal, the Russian envoy observed that opposition to it was “a matter of internal policy rather than external policy”.

He was interacting with media persons at the opening of the modern, multi-media centre of the Russian news agency Ria-Novosti here.

Trubnikov, considered an old India hand by many, said: “In general, by and large and in principle, the India-US nuclear deal is useful for India.”

He pointed that the deal would “open the door” for India to sophisticated and dual-use technologies and civil nuclear cooperation with a large number of countries.

He added: “But it is for India to decide at what price it is prepared to strike the deal.”

Russia has been working with India on the nuclear power project plant at Koodankulum in Tamil Nadu and also supplied nuclear fuel recently.

Trubnikov said the civil nuclear cooperation between India and Russia was developing satisfactorily. “Russia will fulfill all its obligations and shall continue the cooperation. We are also willing to expand the cooperation,” he said.

Referring to the draft on civil nuclear energy cooperation between the two countries that has been initialized but not signed, the Russian ambassador said: “The completion of the cooperation will not be easy as Russia cannot go beyond its international obligations. We cannot violate the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG).”

The proposed India-US nuclear deal could only be implemented once New Delhi signs a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and on the basis of the document gets an exemption from the NSG that would also allow the 45 members of the group to cooperate with New Delhi in the field of civil nuclear energy.

“The fact that we have not been able to sign the civil nuclear energy cooperation with India speaks for itself,” Trubnikov said.

“Russia’s international obligations are reflected in our internal laws,” he added.

Though in favour of an early resolution of the nuclear debate within India that would allow it to sign the nuclear deal, the Russian ambassador argued there were several instances in history when countries have taken years and even decades to negotiate and sign important international agreements.

“Since India, the US and the outside world, all are interested in it, I think the nuclear deal will be signed sooner or later, perhaps with some modifications,” Trubnikov said.

But he was not willing to link India’s case with that of Iran, whose controversial nuclear programme has come under criticism from different parts of the world, particularly the US.

“We support the right of Iran to have access to modern, peaceful nuclear technology. Russia will support Iran to the extent of fulfilling its expectation for lawful and legal sharing of nuclear technology. But we cannot support any attempt by Iran to develop a military programme,” Trubnikov added.

He added there was no “proof” so far to establish that Iran was developing a nuclear weapons.

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