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Russia strengthens ties with India in deal on nuclear projects

A deal between Moscow and New Delhi will see Russia building more nuclear power stations on Indian soil. It came as the leaders of both countries met to work on developing closer ties.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh believes ties with Russia are of great importance

Russia and India have agreed to work more closely on nuclear power in a round of discussions to strengthen ties between the two countries.

The deal was announced as Russian President Dimitry Medvedev and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met at the Kremlin.

It paves the way for more Russian reactors to be built on Indian soil and strengthens research links between the two powers. Russia is building two nuclear power units in the southern Indian region of Tamil Nadu and had already agreed to build four more there in talks last year.

Up to 20 reactors

Russia's state-owned nuclear power firm Rosatom could now build a further 20 reactors in India, including up to six at a new site in West Bengal.

"We welcome Russia's participation in the broadening of our nuclear energy program," Prime Minister Singh said at the televised signing ceremony, adding that it was a “major step forward.”

A nuclear power station with Russian and Indian flag

Up to 20 reactors are to be built by Russia in India

"Today we have signed an agreement which broadens the reach of our cooperation beyond the supply of nuclear reactors to areas of research and development and a whole range of areas of nuclear energy," Singh added. The prime minister had earlier told Russian reporters that the relationship with Russia was "the most important" for his country.

"Big, good future"

The Russian president said that nuclear cooperation with India, already a military nuclear power, had a "very big, very good future." "We are both of the opinion that our relations have very much potential," Medvedev said.

Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko, who was at the talks, said that the contracts would be worth "tens of billions of dollars."

The signing of the nuclear deal is expected to be the main achievement of the three-day visit by Singh.

Russia has been trying to strengthen its foothold in the Indian nuclear market ahead of a deal with Washington to give American companies access to the market. The 2005 agreement between Singh and President George W. Bush ended a period of isolation for India after it tested an atomic bomb in 1974.

rc/Reuters/AFP

Editor: Susan Houlton

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