India's NSG membership dream threatens to derail MoU with Russia on nuke plant

In what could become a major breaking point in the India-Russia bilateral relations in its seven decade history, India has warned Russia of blocking all co-operation with foreign countries on developing its nuclear energy programme if New Delhi's logjam in the Nuclear Suppliers' Group continues, The Times of India reported.

The report said that India might even keep a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Russia on developing reactor five and six at the Kudankulam Nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu in the back-burner if the NSG tension remains.

The development comes at a time when Moscow is seen getting closer to Beijing on several issues affecting global geo-politics. This could be seen especially in the context of the launch of the One Belt and One Road (OBOR) project and the North Korea stand-off. While Russian president Vladimir Putin has openly praised China's OBOR initiative, while Moscow has called for an end towards the intimidation of North Korea.

 Indias NSG membership dream threatens to derail MoU with Russia on nuke plant

File image of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. AP

Moscow's stance came at the time when India refused to join OBOR and reportedly downgraded its ties with North Korea.

According to The Times of India, New Delhi keeping the MoU on hold is its ploy to force Moscow to pressure Beijing in supporting India's bid at the NSG.

This issue was raised during Russian prime minister Dmitry Rogozin's visit to India last week, but he had to go empty-handed without any clarity on the nuclear MoU.

The MoU is reportedly important from Russia's nuclear investment perspective in India. However, the report added that if there is no movement on the MoU before the summit between Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the meeting may end up being a no-show.

The MoU was supposed to be signed during the Brics Summit in Goa. However, the over-riding question of India's lack of NSG membership postponed the deal.

With NSG membership a top priority for India. the report noted that New Delhi feels that it is only Russia can influence China — the major stumbling block in last year's plenary in Seoul — and the other NSG members to soften their stand against India, a non-member nuclear power.

While Russia is at India's firing range, other countries like France and US, are not ascertained to have been "threatened", the report noted.

The report claimed if the top nuclear countries do not support India, then it may be forced to pursue an independent civilian nuclear policy, which it has already been doing so since its first nuclear tests in 1974.

Updated Date: May 17, 2017 12:57:55 IST