New Delhi: India is hopeful of inking an expanded civil nuclear deal with Russia during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's three-day visit to Moscow from Sunday that will also see the two countries sign three key defence pacts, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said on Saturday.
Rao said India and Russia were currently "in the advanced stages of finalising a bilateral framework on peaceful uses of nuclear energy".
"Several rounds of negotiations have already taken place between our experts and we are hopeful that the agreement will be finalised during the visit," Rao told reporters.
The agreement, likely to be inked during the annual summit talks between Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Monday, will ensure continuation of Moscow's support for the ongoing civil nuclear programme in India.
"The nuclear agreement envisages broad-based cooperation on a range of technologies and knowhow in the realm of peaceful uses of nuclear technology," the foreign secretary said.
Manmohan Singh and Medvedev will also discuss the supply of four more Russian reactors for the nuclear power station in Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and its Russian counterpart Atomstroyexport are currently collaborating for installation of two reactors in Koodankulam.
The agreement to build these two civilian nuclear reactors in India was signed in December 2008 during a visit by the Russian president to New Delhi.
Other highlights of the agreement are reprocessing consent rights for all future Russian reactors supplied to India. India will also be allowed to enrich Russian-supplied uranium up to 20 percent.
The Prime Minister in an interview to the Russian media on Friday described the nuclear energy cooperation as "a very important pillar of our cooperation with Russia".
"We have identified new sites for collaboration with Russia for nuclear power projects," Manmohan Singh said in the interview, the transcript of which was released by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
The December 6-8 trip will see the two countries signing three major defence-related agreements, including the one on cooperation in development and production of multi-role transport aircraft (MTA), which will give India an opportunity to enter the global export market.
"We have moved well beyond a buyer-seller relationship to joint production through the transfer of relevant technologies. The Indian defence industry has been in large measure due to the strong relationship we have had with Russia and the Soviet Union earlier," Rao said.
"During the annual summit, this relationship will be reviewed at the highest level," she added.
The other two agreements include an estimated $5 billion pact on extending the programme for military and technical cooperation for the period 2011-2020. Another pact on
after-sales support for Russian arms and military equipment supplied to India will also be signed, she said.
Rao said that defence cooperation has been a "key element of our relationship" with Russia.
But the long-awaited deal for aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov won't be finalised.
The two sides have been trying to settle the issue, "I hope it will be resolved shortly," Rao said, adding that it would not come up during the Prime Minister's visit.
Indian and Russian defence experts have been discussing the price hike for refurbishment of the $2.2-billion aircraft carrier.
The hike has now touched $2.9 billion, instead of the $974 million that was originally contracted. India has asked Russia to bring down the price to $2.1 billion.
The volatile situation in Afghanistan and terrorism are also likely to figure in the talks between Manmohan Singh and Russian leaders.
Manmohan Singh will attend the closing ceremony of the 'Year of India in Russia' in the new hall of the historic Bolshoi Theatre on Monday.