Nuclear Deal On Cards As President Visits India

February 15, 2015

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s maiden visit to India may see New Delhi and Colombo moving towards a civil nuclear cooperation agreement to take bilateral ties to a new height, India’s Deccan Herald reported.

Sirisena, who took over as the new President of Sri Lanka last month after defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa, will arrive in New Delhi today. He is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.  A comprehensive India-Sri Lanka nuclear cooperation agreement is expected to be among the outcomes of the meeting.

If New Delhi and Colombo ink the deal, it will be India's first nuclear cooperation agreement with any of its neighbours.

New Delhi was quick to reach out to the new President after his election, as it expects Sirisena, unlike Rajapaksa, to not allow China to use the island nation to add to the strategic assets it has been building encircling India. As Sirisena chose New Delhi as his first overseas destination after taking over, the Modi government is expecting “substantive talks and outcomes in terms of agreements, frameworks and announcements” across a range of areas for prospective bilateral cooperation, India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson recently said.

Sources, however, told Deccan Herald that both India and Sri Lanka were keen to move fast on the proposed nuclear cooperation agreement.

Offers from Pakistan and China to help Sri Lanka build nuclear reactors had prompted a jittery New Delhi to launch consultations with Colombo in 2012 for “a comprehensive agreement on bilateral civil nuclear cooperation”. Indian and Sri Lankan officials held two more rounds of talks in 2014.

The scope of the proposed agreement is likely to include New Delhi helping build small nuclear power plants in Sri Lanka using Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors indigenously developed in India, in addition to training officials on nuclear safety and response to nuclear accidents.

The proposed deal is likely to provide for bilateral cooperation between India and Sri Lanka for research and development works exploring power generation using thorium.

Indian nuclear scientists may help their Sri Lankan colleagues conduct feasibility studies on use of thorium deposits, found in abundance along the southern coastal belt of the island nation, to generate atomic power, Deccan Herald reported citing ‘sources.’
(with inputs from Deccan Herald)

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