The civilian nuclear agreement signed between New Delhi and Washington over a decade ago looks to be moving ahead with the two sides deciding to start preparatory work on six nuclear power plants in India following bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama.
The US also recognised India as a major defence partner.
“Culminating a decade of partnership on civil nuclear issues, the leaders welcomed the start of preparatory work on site in India for six AP 1000 reactors to be built by Westinghouse and noted the intention of India and the US Export-Import Bank to work together toward a competitive financing package for the project,” a joint statement issued following Tuesday’s talks said.
“Once completed, the project would be among the largest of its kind, fulfilling the promise of the US-India civil nuclear agreement and demonstrating a shared commitment to meet India’s growing energy needs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels.”
The US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation, also known as the 123 Agreement, was signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush on July 18, 2005.
The AP 1000 is a nuclear power plant designed and sold by Westinghouse Electric Company, a US based firm which sells nuclear products and services to utilities.
“Once completed, the project would be among the largest of its kind, fulfilling the promise of the US-India civil nuclear agreement and demonstrating a shared commitment to meet India’s growing energy needs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels,” the joint statement said.
“Both sides welcomed the announcement by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, and Westinghouse that engineering and site design work will begin immediately and the two sides will work toward finalising the contractual arrangements by June 2017.”
The six reactors, each with a design capacity of 1,100 megawatts would be located in the eastern coastal town of Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh. The plant, originally proposed to be built in Gujarat had to be relocated following opposition from farmers in the western state.
Some 2000 acres of land has been acquired, but government officials in Andhra Pradesh are confident of completing acquisition by the year end, Reuters had said in a report last week.
Even if the land acquisition is over, other issues like financing and clinching a civil nuclear pact with Japan is crucial, the report said. Westinghouse’s parent, Toshiba Corp is based in Tokyo.
The statement also said the US and India shared common climate and clean energy interests and were close partners in the fight against climate change.
“Leadership from both countries helped galvanise global action to combat climate change and culminated in the historic Paris Agreement reached last December,” it stated.
India was also elevated to the status of a major defence partner of the US which, apart from sending a strong message to the world, will also act as a catalyst for defence production under the Make in India initiative.
” Noting that the US-India defence relationship can be an anchor of stability, and given the increasingly strengthened cooperation in defense, the United States hereby recognises India as a Major Defence Partner,” the joint statement said.
According to the statement, both Modi and Obama expressed their desire to explore agreements which would facilitate further expansion of bilateral defence cooperation in practical ways.
“In this regard, they welcomed the finalisation of the text of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA),” it said.
The US would continue to work towards facilitating technology sharing with India to the same as level as it does with its closest allies and partners.
“The leaders also committed to enhance cooperation in support of the Government of India’s Make in India Initiative and expand the co-production and co-development of technologies under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI),” the statement said.
Cyber security also came up for discussion between Modi and Obama and this was reflected in the joint statement.
“They committed to deepen cooperation on cybersecurity and welcomed the understanding reached to finalise the framework for the US-India Cyber Relationship in the near term,” it said.
Both the leaders reiterated their commitment to fight terrorism.
“They resolved to redouble their efforts, bilaterally and with other like-minded countries, to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism anywhere in the world and the infrastructure that supports them,” the statement said.
In terms of boosting business and economic cooperation, both the leaders also agreed to substantially increase bilateral trade.
“In order to substantially increase bilateral trade, they pledged to explore new opportunities to break down barriers to the movement of goods and services, and support deeper integration into global supply chains, thereby creating jobs and generating prosperity in both economies,” the statement said.