Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, during a five-day visit to Russia, signed agreements with Russia for additional units of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The agreement was signed following a meeting with Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Ministry of Industry & Trade Denis Manturov.

Kudankulam NPP, being constructed with Russian assistance, will comprise six units with VVER-1000 reactors. Work began following an intergovernmental agreement between India and Russia signed in 1988. Units 1&2 (Phase I) are already in operation and work is underway to build units 3-6 (Phases II and III). Units 1&2 began operation in 2016. The general framework agreement with Rosatom on the construction units 3&4 was signed in 2014 and, in 2017, the engineering division of Rosatom and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) signed an agreement on the construction units 5&6. Work on units 5&6 began in 2021 and the NPP is expected to be operating at full capacity by 2027. The roadmap for nuclear cooperation between Russia and India provides for the construction of a total 12 units in India, including 4-8 at Kudankulam.

"Today, in the presence of Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, we signed some important agreements pertaining to future units of the Kudankulam Nuclear Project," Jaishankar told a meeting with the Indian community in Moscow. "Russia is a special partner in various fields," he said, listing defence, the nuclear sector and space as the main sectors. "“Interaction in these areas is carried out with those with whom there is a high level of trust. This … reflects the quality of relations.” During the meeting with Manturov ageements were also signed relating to co-operation in the fields of medicine and pharmaceuticals. Jaishankar also said that the two sides expected to meet by the end of January 2024 to start negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

Responding to a question about a payment problem between Russia and India, he said that “in an unusual situation, we are finding ways in which the banks can deal with each other”. He advised those who were unsure about what was happening to “hold back”. However, those with banking expertise and do business with Russia “can educate people about good banks and safe routes”.

He posted on “X” that the special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia reflects the experiences and sentiments of the last 75 years. He urged the Indian community to contribute to the “deepening of mutually beneficial cooperation” and to promote “close ties with Russia in a multipolar world”.

The Hindustan Times, citing “sources” said India and Russia had also discussed cooperation in the field of small modular reactors (SMRs). According to the newspaper, Moscow is ready to share technologies for developing a SMR with a capacity of 75-300 MWe. Both sides also insisted on the early commissioning Kudankulam 3&4 and the simultaneous acceleration of work on units 5&6..

Jaishankar also had talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov focusing on the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) – a freight project linking India and Russia via several central and west Asian countries. Lavrov told reporters that it will be implemented in the near future. He said the corridor will develop because of a decline in “Western economic clout” which will result in emerging economic powers developing new trade infrastructure to meet their needs. Jaishankar said the corridor will not only benefit India and Russia but also help in the transport and development of countries that the corridor will pass through as well as the global economy. He added that India “will certainly give it the highest priority”.

INSTC is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road route and will connect India and Russia while connecting Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Central Asian nations and Europe. Current members include India, Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, with Bulgaria as an observer. Turkmenistan is expected to join.

The Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India said that INSTC is 30% cheaper and 40% shorter than the current traditional routes and would increase bilateral trade between India-Russia, India-Iran and other INSTC members. It would certainly make the transport of large nuclear equipment easier and quicker. The route joins Mumbai to Moscow and St Petersburg via Bandar Abbas, Bandar-e-Anzali and Astrakhan, and includes important seaport cities in the Arabian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, North Sea and the Black Sea.

Image: Kudankulam is currently the largest nuclear power station in India

Date: Thursday, 04 January 2024
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