In an effort to further strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, at the end of the 9th round of India-US Strategic Security Dialogue, the US has agreed to build six atomic power plants in India. The US has also expressed its support to India’s early membership in the 48 member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG); though China has blocked India’s pending membership to the elite grouping that seeks to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons.
In a joint statement issued at the end of India-US Strategic Security Dialogue, co-chaired by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Andrea Thompson, the US under secretary of state for arms control and international security, in Washington, the two countries agreed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six US nuclear power plants in India. Though no details about the sites was given.
Besides exchanging views on a wide range of global security and non-proliferation challenges, the two countries also reaffirmed their commitment to work together to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and to deny access to such weapons by terrorists and non-state actors.
Earlier in the week, Indra Mani Pandey, Additional Secretary for Disarmament and International Security Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, and Dr Yleem DS Poblete, US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, co-chaired the third round of the India-US Space Dialogue. Both sides discussed trends in space threats; respective national space priorities; and opportunities for cooperation bilaterally and in multilateral fora.
India and the US had signed a historic agreement to cooperate in civil nuclear energy sector in October 2008, which gave a fillip to bilateral ties, which has been on an upward swing since. Under the deal was the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), that gave a special waiver to India enabling it to sign cooperation agreements with a dozen countries.
After getting a waiver, India has so far inked civil nuclear cooperation agreements with the US, France, Russia, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Sri Lanka, the UK, Japan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and South Korea.
The Westinghouse-Toshiba nuclear reactors deal for making six reactors was to be negotiated by June 2017 but that deadline was missed, as the US-based Westinghouse Electric Co filed for bankruptcy protection in March 2017.
Sources had confirmed then that no money had exchanged hands, and techno-commercial negotiations of the deal were at an advanced stage. Though the joint statement issued in Washington indicates that the reactors are back on track, the delay is expected to impact India s target of tripling its nuclear generating capacity by 2024.
The contract, when finalised and put into action, is expected to give a big boost to India s $150-billion nuclear power programme. The US based Westinghouse had already been allotted a site in Gujarat to build a nuclear power station with total capacity of 2,500 MW and possibility of expansion in future.
Also, earlier two sites have been identified for GE plants in Andhra Pradesh with an initial capacity of 3,200 MW. India has also been in negotiations with US Exim Bank for loan of around $8-9 billion to part-fund building of the reactors.