Russia nuke coop to continue but people's concerns matter: PM

Manmohan Singh assured Russia that India would fulfil all its commitments on bilateral nuclear cooperation while according top priority to safety issues and concerns raised by people in Kundankulam.

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today assured Russia that India would fulfil all its commitments on bilateral nuclear cooperation while according top priority to safety issues and concerns raised by people in Kundankulam.

Before embarking on a visit to Moscow that comes amid anti-nuclear protests at the site of the Russia-assisted project in Tamil Nadu, Singh said his government takes people's concerns seriously but the Indo-Russian atomic cooperation would continue.

During Singh's three-day visit for the 12th annual Indo-Russian Summit, the two countries are expected to sign seven to nine agreements to expand cooperation in the fields of trade, defence and energy.

However, the contract for construction of two more reactors of Russian design at Kudankulam is unlikely to be signed even though negotiations are at an advanced stage.

In an interview to Russian media before his visit, Singh also said that trade and commercial cooperation needs to become more contemporary and reflective of our capacities.

"The protests in Kudankulam reflect the concern among people about the safety of nuclear energy," Singh said pointing out that the facility had elicited environment and livelihood concerns among local people.

He said the government has set up an independent group of experts to respond to all legitimate and genuine concerns and fears of the local people.

However, he said Russia had been a partner to India in times of difficulty, even when there were restrictions on nuclear commerce with India, and New Delhi was committed to its pledges in the field with Moscow.

"As far as India-Russia cooperation in the nuclear field is concerned, this will continue and we will fulfil our commitments," he said.

Singh said India gives the highest priority to nuclear safety and he was of the view that the Russian leadership adheres to the same standards.

"If we have to develop nuclear energy in the country it is essential that it is done with the support of the people," the Prime Minister said.

Singh said India's ties with Russia had stood the "test of time" and there is convergence of views between the two sides on international issues like the revival of the global economy, cooperation within BRICS, the situation in West Asia and North Africa and the challenges in Afghanistan.

He said Afghanistan is going through a crucial stage of transition and having a vital stake in peace and stability in that country, India and Russia should hold regular consultations on the situation there.

"Everyone wishes to see an end to terrorism in Afghanistan, most of all the people of Afghanistan themselves. We should support the people of Afghanistan in their process of transition and nation building and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan," Singh said.

On terrorism, the Prime Minister said the two nations, that as large multi-ethnic and open democracies are especially vulnerable to the threat, were closely cooperating in combating it both at the bilateral and international levels.

"We are both united in our strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. There can be no justification whatsoever for acts of terrorism," he said.

"Our National Security Councils and special services are in touch with each other. At the multilateral level, we are working together for an early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism by the UN," he said.

Singh said he was looking forward to holding detailed discussions with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladmir Putin and batted for greater focus on the economic aspects of the relationship.

Terming Russia a most reliable defence partner, Singh said the bilateral defence relationship had changed from one of 'buyer-seller' to that of partners in joint development of systems and in research and development.

"Our defence cooperation has always been an important pillar of our strategic partnership with Russia. Russia is India's largest supplier of defence equipment and a most reliable partner," he said.

Describing the Indo-Russian relationship as special and privileged partnership that produces concrete results, the Prime Minister said the two sides were also engaged in the Integrated Long Term Programme for Cooperation in the field of Science and Technology, which is India's biggest scientific collaboration programme with any country.

Talking about Indo-Russian collaboration in international forums, Singh said the agenda of the BRICS grouping now extends to issues beyond economy the purely economic realm to include international terrorism, climate change and food and energy security.

"At a time of economic uncertainty, especially in the Eurozone, growth and prosperity in the BRICS economies can play a significant role in ensuring economic and financial stability at a global level," he said.

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