NEW DELHI: India and Kazakhstan have signed a bigger contract for supply of uranium for the next four years for fuel-hungry Indian nuclear power plants, even as both countries look to widen cooperation in defence and improve connectivity routes, both for goods and energy.
After talks held in the palatial presidential palace between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Nursultan Nazarbayev, five agreements were signed which include a long-term contract for supply of uranium and defence cooperation.
This is the second leg of Modi’s six-nation tour, in which he is spending barely 24 hours in the five central asian countries. After discussions and a banquet luncheon hosted by President Nazarbayev, Modi immediately left for Russia to take part in the twin summits of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and BRICS.
In his statement before the press, Modi noted that Kazakhstan was one of the first countries with whom India signed a civil nuclear cooperation. India signed the agreement in 2009 after the implementation of US-India civil nuclear deal.
“We are pleased to have a much larger second contract now,” he said.
The long term contract signed between Department of Atomic Energy and KazAtomProm is for sale and purchase of 5000 tonnes of uranium to India from 2015 to 2019.
Kazakhstan, which has world’s second largest reserves, is already a major supplier of uranium for India’s nuclear power plants, but the previous contract had ended in December last year. It has supplied about 1400 tonnes of uranium since 2010-11.
Central Asia is emerging as crucial for India’s energy security. Yesterday, Prime Minister Modi spending some time yesterday with Uzbek president Islam Karimov to discuss the method to implement the contract for uranium supply.
With the hydrocarbons being a “high priority”, Modi and Nazarbayev jointly launched the drilling operations for exploration in the first oil field with Indian investments in Kazakhstan.
Incidentally, the joint statement notes that both sides have agreed to hold a joint feasibility study to explore the transport of hydrocarbons through a pipeline or as LNG from Kazakhstan to India. New Delhi had suggested the pipeline route to Kazakhstan in 2013, which if came to fruition would be longer than the TAPI pipeline.
Modi also emphasized defence and security cooperation, which he described as an “important dimension of our strategic partnership”.
“We both want to make it stronger, including in defence manufacturing. We welcome the new Memorandum of Understanding on defence cooperation,” he said.
As per the joint statement, the defence pact will “further widen the scope of bilateral defence cooperation including regular exchange of visits, consultations, training of military personnel, military-technical cooperation, joint exercises, special forces exchanges and cooperation in the area of UN peacekeeping operations”.
Since Kazakhstan is India’s largest trading partner in Central Asia, there was considerable stress on improving connectivity.
“The International North South Transport Corridor, the Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan rail link, India's interest in joining the Ashkabat Agreement on trade and transit and India's investment in Chahbahar Port in Iran will strengthen connectivity,” said Modi.
Besides, both countries are also discussing the possibility of a dedicated freight terminal for trade with Kazakhstan in one of the Western sea-ports of India.