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Putin visit: Kudankulam units III, IV pact unlikely (Roundup)

New Delhi,Defence/Security,Diplomacy,Business/Economy, Fri, 21 Dec 2012 IANS

New Delhi, Dec 21 (IANS) With some differences persisting over India's civil nuclear liability law, a pact on Russia constructing units III and IV of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KNPP) is unlikely to be signed during the annual India-Russia summit here Monday.

"I don't think the agreement on units III and IV will be signed because we are still negotiating it but there will be more than a dozen documents which would be concluded covering the entire gamut of relations, including military cooperation," Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin told reporters here Friday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hold wide-ranging talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday here during which issues relating to civil nuclear cooperation will figure prominently.

Asked about issues holding back the inking of the agreement for KNPP III and IV units, Kadakin said Russia believed that the pact should be under the terms and reference of the 2008 accord while India was insisting on negotiations under its new civil nuclear liability law.

He expressed confidence that the differences would be resolved and an agreement will be signed soon.

If India insists on nuclear liability, the price of units III and IV will go up, the envoy said.

Russia has contended that the civil nuclear liability law should not apply to these units as the agreement on them predates the 2010 civil liability law, and could be seen as "grandfathered" by the original 1988 agreement.

India has indicated that it is ready for price escalation, but has made it clear that will not compromise its civil nuclear liability regime. The price negotiations for units III and IV are to be decided by a techno-commercial panel.

The showpiece of the visit could be some long-term defence deals. The two countries are expected to ink deals on the sale of fighter jets and aircraft engines to India which are estimated to be around $7 billion.

A deal on selling 42 Sukhoi SU-30MKI fighters and on the long-term supply of 970 warplane engines could be unveiled during the visit.

Another issue that will dominate the agenda is the deadlock over the Russian telecom giant Sistema's $3.1 billion investment in India.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid Friday said "issues of concern," including that of Sistema investment, will be addressed. The Russian envoy stressed that the two sides are in touch to resolve the contentious issue.

"Issues of concern will be taken up and will be addressed...There are no insurmountable issues," Khurshid said at a press briefing here.

"We have good relations with Russia and we want to strengthen and enhance it," he said.

Kadakin said the relevant ministries are actively in touch over the issue to find a solution and stressed that given Moscow's special ties with New Delhi, Russia has not resorted to international arbitration.

Khurshid also said the apex court "may take a fresh look" at the issue.

"When the prime minister meets with President Putin, we will have some adequate answers ready that will bring comfort" to both sides, the minister said.

He also said that the apex court had not taken up a "fifth question" in relation to the matter. "Since the question was not answered, we will draw the court's attention and bring it to its notice."

The issue has been hanging fire ever since the Supreme Court passed an order in February cancelling all 122 licences (including that of Sistema Shyam Teleservices) following allegations of bribery and corruption in the allocation of 2G spectrum.

Asked if Russia was looking at an improved relationship with Pakistan, the envoy said Pakistan was an important country for Russia, particularly in the wake of the 2014 withdrawal of international combat troops from Afghanistan.

"However, we shall never supply anything to anyone which can be detrimental to India," he said.

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