India's plans to wrap up a quick nuclear deal with Russia on the setting up of two new units at Kudankulam have received a jolt with a commercial agreement on it unlikely to be signed on Monday during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's talks with President Vladimir Putin as legal hitches appear to have cropped up over the liability law.
The prime minister arrived here today to a red carpet welcome on a bright and cold afternoon for his fifth annual summit and was received by Russian Vice Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and later given a ceremonial guard of honour.
Significantly, neither in his departure statement in Delhi nor in his arrival remarks here, the prime minister referred to the much-talked about nuclear deal with Russia for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP).
Top government sources said lawyers of both the sides have to clear the text of the agreement on the Units 3 and 4 reactors in the Russian-aided project in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu before it can be approved.
Singh told the media on his arrival here that India and Russia share a privileged, special partnership and this is why the 14th Summit is taking place.
"We are going to review our partnership and its progress in diverse fields such as atomic energy, defence cooperation, space cooperation, science and technology, trade and investment and also review the international and regional development and how they impact on our two countries and how we can work together to keep the world safe for peace and prosperity," the Prime Minister said.
At the summit, India and Russia are to sign five agreements tomorrow including one on Transfer of Sentenced Persons that will facilitate the process of social rehabilitation of sentenced persons of the other country by providing the opportunity to serve their sentences in their country under certain conditions.
On the nuclear deal, government sources said: "we are close (to an agreement). Most of the issues have been settled except one which is now with the lawyers of both the sides. They have to clear the finalised text."
"In any case", the sources said, "it (agreement) won't be signed during the visit because it is a commercial agreement between NPCIL and Rosatom. They would like to do it separately," the sources said.
Russia, with whose collaboration the KNPP has been set up, is opposed to the project coming under the ambit of the Nuclear Civil Liability Law of India and wants it to be covered under the Inter-governmental agreement on the issue.
India has tried to assuage Russian concerns by making proposals on the liability limiting it to suppliers default in cases of equipment failure in the event of an accident.
Public sector General Insurance Corporation has been asked to work on details of the quantum of insurance and the premium including for the suppliers.
The sources said the deal on setting up Units 3 and 4 to be supplied by Russia is "close" to signing but for one aspect.
"It (deal) is very close. We have settled most of the issues except one. It is now with the lawyers. The lawyers of both sides have to clear it. So we are waiting for them to actually tell us," the sources said.
In his departure statement in Delhi, Singh said, "The scope of our relationship with Russia is unique, encompassing strong and growing cooperation in areas such as defence, nuclear energy, science and technology, hydrocarbons, trade and investment, and people-to-people exchanges."
The other four bilateral agreements and MoUs to be signed are related to the programme of cooperation in the fields of science, technology and innovation between the two governments to deepen cooperation in the field of innovation through joint programmes and projects and exchanges involving educational, R and D and industrial institutions.
The joint projects may also facilitate transfer of technology in IT, nano-technology, environmental sciences and alternate energy.
Programme of cooperation in the field of bio-technology, MoU between Bureau of Energy Efficiency of India and Russian Energy Agency and another MoU in the field of starndardisation and conformity assessment between Bureau of Indian Standards and Russian Metrology agency will be signed during the summit.
After meeting with Putin, a joint statement covering all aspects of bilateral relationship will be issued.
After talks and a working lunch with the Russian President, the Prime Minister will be conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO).
From Russia, Prime Minister Singh will depart for China for a bilateral visit.