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India, Kazakhstan to carry forward civil nuclear cooperation beyond 2014

New Delhi, Mar.5 (ANI): Foreign Ministers of India and Kazakhstan on Tuesday agreed to carry forward their bilateral civil nuclear cooperation beyond 2014.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Kazakh counterpart Erlan Idrissov held comprehensive talks on issues of bilateral, regional and international interest to both countries, and particularly reviewed the status of bilateral ties in key areas of defence, civil nuclear energy and hydrocarbons.

“We hold similar views on most pressing global problems. We agreed that the menace of international terrorism has to be fought by the international community collectively and that we must also make bilateral efforts in this direction,” Khurshid said at a joint press conference with Idrissov.

On enhancing civil nuclear cooperation with India, Idrissov said the agreement inked by two sides for supply of fuel till 2014 was being implemented, and both countries were now looking beyond that deadline.

Idrissov said that the Chairman of Kazakh nuclear company KazAtomProm has held discussions with his counterpart here.

The two sides also discussed projects of ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), which has already acquired 25 per cent stake in the Satpayev Oil Block in the Caspian Sea, with India seeking Kazakhstan’s support for an important bid that OVL is making for a stake in the Kashagan oil field.

Khurshid said: “We also explored further possibilities of cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector. We requested the support of the government of Kazakhstan for an important bid that OVL is making for a stake in the Kashagan oil field.”

Idrissov, in response, advocated a “broad rather than narrow” vision for cooperation in the oil and gas sector.

“I hope this (OVL-ConocoPhillips deal) will be done soon. This is a very complex project and it involves work of partners in the consortium changing hands… It involves a lot of technical, financial issues and therefore everyone is keen that the decision is taken in a well informed, well balanced way,” he said.

“We of course are aware of the proposal made by ONGC… I hope a decision will be done sooner than later. But let me stress that Kashagan is not the end of life. We have a very successful example of cooperation in the same Caspian Sea area but on a bilateral basis,” he added while referring to ONGC Videsh picking up a 25 percent share in the Satpayev block in Kazakhstan in 2011.

The Kashagan field, estimated to be the world’s largest hydrocarbon development project valued at around 187 billion dollars,is jointly controlled by Kazakhstan’s state-run KazMunaiGas and six international companies, namely ConocoPhillips, Italy’s Eni SpA, Exxon Mobil Corp., Inpex Corp. of Japan, Royal Dutch Shell plc., and France’s Total SA.

Kashagan holds an estimated 30 billion barrels of oil in place, of which 8-12 billion is potentially recoverable.

India and Kazakhstan have engaged in civil nuclear cooperation since January 2009 when NPCIL and KazAtomProm signed an MoU under which KazAtomProm supplies uranium for Indian reactors.

India has 20 operating nuclear units with five more, including a fast breeder, under construction. Another 39 are planned or firmly proposed. However, the country has only modest indigenous uranium resources.

In 2010, the NPCIL reported that it had imported some 868 tonnes of uranium so far that year, including 300 tonnes of natural uranium from Kazakh nuclear company KazAtomProm.

Kazakhstan, on the other hand, has 15 per cent of the world’s uranium resources and became the leading uranium- producing country in 2009.

Energy-starved India is looking to augment its fuel sources to meet the requirements of its growing economy.

India’s petroleum ministry estimates the country’s energy requirements to more than double by 2035 to around 1,500 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) from less than 700 MTOE at present.

Among other proposals discussed were ways to increase investment and a possible energy and trade corridor connecting India and Kazakhstan.

“Our trade is reported to have crossed the half billion dollar mark for the first time last year. We also have a number of significant investment projects in the pipeline, in both countries. We agreed to explore possibilities of creating direct trade and energy corridors between our countries. We hope to also have enhanced air connectivity with airlines from Kazakhstan and India soon having upto 14 flights a week to destinations in each of our countries,” Khurshid said.

Talking about regional cooperation, Idrissov said: “No issue in this part of the world can be resolved without India”, adding one of the key areas of cooperation was Afghanistan.(ANI + inputs)