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Kudankulam, defence, energy top Manmohan-Putin talks
Tuesday October 22, 2013 0:09 AM, Ranjana Narayan, IANS

India and Russia Monday marked a very special phase in their close ties as the first Russian-built reactor in Tamil Nadu's Kudankulam was connected to the electricity grid in south India and poised to produce electricity while a commercial deal for the third and fourth reactors are near complete.

As Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in the Russian capital where the temperatures are near freezing, both stressed on the closeness of their ties in all spheres, including cooperation in economic, energy, defence, counter-terrorism and people-to-people contact.

Manmohan Singh and Putin held restricted level talks for over four hours in the Green Drawing Room of the Grand Kremlin Palace, with their close aides, who included from the Indian side Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Indian Ambassador Ajai Malhotra and senior officials of the Prime Minister's Office.

Putin, addressing reporters after the delegation level talks and inking of five agreements later, said he was happy that the first reactor had gone critical and was poised to be connected to the electricity grid "in a few hours", while the second one if to go critical in early 2014.

On the third and fourth reactors, on which a commercial deal has got stuck due to concerns over India's civil liability laws, Putin said both sides "have plans to construct the third and fourth units".

Manmohan Singh said that "we have directed our officials to resolve all outstanding issues at the earliest".

Sujatha Singh, addressing newspersons later, said the first unit is to produce 300 MW of electricity from Monday night. She said there were "legal issues" concerning the third and fourth units which were being sorted out.

The joint statement mentions that besides units three and four, both sides have agreed to cooperate "in the construction of additional nuclear power plant units at Kudankulam site as well as in the construction of Russian designed Nuclear Power Plants at new sites in the Republic of India".

Taking major steps to enhance energy cooperation, both sides have decided to set up a joint study group to examine the possibility of directly transporting hydrocarbons to India through the land route.

While India already has stakes in the Sakhalin and Tomsk fields for hydrocarbons, India and Russia have also decided to jointly explore for oil and gas in the Arctic region.

In defence, where both sides are close partners with India sourcing a major chunk of its hardware from Russia, both Putin and Manmohan Singh mentioned the completion of the refitting of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, rechristened Vikramaditya, which is to be handed over to India in mid November.

Their defence cooperation has transformed from buyer-seller to co-design and co-production, especially in the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft and the Multi Transport Aircraft.

Both sides are to collaborate in manufacture of Russian built Mi-17V-5 helicopter, which was extensively used during rescue operations in the Uttarakhand flood tragedy earlier this year, said the foreign secretary.

Manmohan Singh and Putin discussed Afghanistan, and how to "prevent the effects of terrorism from spilling over". India has made sizeable contribution to infrastructure development in violence-hit Afghanistan.

During their discussions on regional issues, Iran and Pakistan figured. Both sides discussed Syria and India commended Russia's move to defuse the crisis when the US was planning military strikes over alleged use of chemical weapons by President Bashar al Assad.

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