ASTANA: Kazakhstan is prepared to supply India uranium for its existing and future civil nuclear power plants and in return expects greater intensity in economic ties, including assistance in joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
An agreement to promote nuclear cooperation between the two countries could be agreed upon during a summit meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Kazakhstan was the world’s third largest producer of uranium last year after Canada and Australia and expects to achieve the top position in a year or two. With Australia turning down India’s request for uranium and negotiations with Canada in the initial stages, Kazakhstan hopes to ensure steady supply.
“Kazakhstan supported India at the Nuclear Suppliers Group as a friendly gesture to an important partner. We are very open to discussing different forms of cooperation [in the nuclear field]. We can develop this idea as soon as we get a concrete proposal from the Indian side,” Kazakh Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nurlan Yermekbayev told journalists from India and China here on Wednesday.
Foreign Offices of the two countries are discussing dates for a summit meeting between the two leaders and Mr. Nazarbayev may be the chief guest at next year’s Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi. “It [the meeting] is not confirmed. We are talking to the Indian Ministry for External Affairs. An agreement on nuclear cooperation is up to the leaders. We are working on organising a meeting at the highest level,” Mr. Yermekbayev said in response to a question.
“When we have negotiations in the nuclear assistance, they will be very effective. There will be no obstacles on the supply of uranium or the price. Both countries would make a profit. I am sure India would be a good partner in this sector,” predicted Sanat Kushkumbayev of the Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies, an institution considered close to the government.
“India plays an important role and could help Kazakhstan join the WTO. India has been a good negotiator at the WTO and could like to promote this process. Our access to WTO is important. Our economy needs access to high tech sector. We can’t depend on energy resources all the time,” he added.
“In general terms we consider India as a strategic partner. The next summit meeting could better characterise our relations, one of which would be to develop business ties. We know of Indian successes in space, information technology and other new technologies, oil exploration and education. We regard cooperation in all these fields as promising,” Mr. Yermekbayev said. “In addition, there are lots of opportunities at our special economic zones for those who like tax preferences and other special arrangements.”
In case India arrives at a nuclear cooperation pact, it would gain in both up and downstream nuclear-related activity. Kazakhstan has already entered into a multi-billion dollar pact with Japan to modernise its uranium extraction process and has developed close ties with Europe, the U.S. and Russia in various sectors of the nuclear field.
Astana even has a 12 per cent stake in Westinghouse, the nuclear reactor powerhouse, and has struck an alliance with Russia to supply state-of-the-art nuclear rectors.
Mr. Yermekbayev also noted the energetic presence of Indian companies in the energy sector and the ongoing negotiations for some oil fields
6 months ago