NEW DELHI, February 23 (Itar-Tass) — India is doing its best to resolve the situation over protest against the construction of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, a key nuclear cooperation project between India and Russia, Russia’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Denisov said on Thursday.
“Russia expressed concern over protests stages by local residents against the construction of the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant and over idling of Russian specialists,” he told journalists, commenting on the results of consultations between the foreign ministries of the two countries. “The Indian side reiterated its efforts to resolve the situation, including through contacts with the Tamil Nadu authorities. More time is needed to get out of the situation.”
According to the Russian diplomat, two commissions of four officials from India’s central and local authorities have been set up with the task to facilitate the soonest launch of the project. “The Indian sides expressed its interest in further development of cooperation with Russia in the area of nuclear power engineering in line with the roadmap that provides for the serial construction of nuclear units numbering from 14 to 16,” Denisov said. “The Indian side also promised to soon appoint another site to build a nuclear plant.”
Following September protests against the construction of nuclear plants, the launch of the Koodankulam project was postponed for two months. In mid-October, more protests were staged. Protesters blocked a road to the plant and engineers and builders were unable to reach it.
Apart from the Koodankulam project, the sides discussed a wide range of issues of bilateral relations, such as the preparation for a BRICS (Brazil, Russia, Iran, China, and South Africa) summit, an Indian visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev due in March, and a tri-party meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, India, and China due to be held in Moscow in April. India and Russia confirmed their commitment to develop privileged strategic partnership and maintain regular bilateral contacts, as well as to coordinate their positions in international organizations and multi-party formats.
The Koodankulam Nuclear plant is being built by Russia’s Atomstroiexport company. An Inter-Governmental Agreement on the Koodankulam project was signed on November 20, 1988 by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, for the construction of two reactors. The project remained in limbo for a decade due to the political and economic upheaval in Russia after the post-1991 Soviet breakup. Construction eventually began in November 2001, after a general agreement and a memorandum on cooperation were signed. The Russian side undertook to ensure technical support to the project, to supply equipment and materials, and to train Indian personnel.