Kazakhstan, the world’s largest producer of uranium, is looking at scaling up its supply of the key energy source to India from 5,000 tonnes during 2015-19 to more than 7,500 tonnes over the next five years, Kazakh ambassador Bulat Sarsenbayev said on Wednesday.
The Central Asian nation, with the second largest uranium reserves or almost 15% of the world’s recoverable uranium, is currently the largest supplier of the commodity to India. It was also among India’s earliest partners in civil nuclear cooperation and supplied 3,000 tonnes under the first contract signed in 2009.
“We have had discussions with Indian counterparts in this area…I had meetings with the (Indian atomic energy company (and things are moving positively. It will take some time and we have time to discuss the agreement,” Sarsenbayev said in an interview.
The last contract for 5,000 tonnes, signed in 2015 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kazakhstan in 2015, expires this year. “Now we are discussing (the supply of 7,500 tonnes and maybe more. (The issue is positively moving and I hope that soon we could (finalise it,” the envoy added.
India had agreed to Kazakhstan’s proposal to negotiate another agreement on nuclear applications in education, medicine and some other areas in which both countries have experience, he said. The two sides are also discussing cooperation in space, especially Kazakhstan’s interest in building satellites to monitor the weather.
Sarsenbayev said bilateral military-technical cooperation had increased, with the two sides set to hold the second KazInd joint military exercise in India this year.
Besides, India side had proposed the creation of a joint venture for maintenance and production of spare parts for Soviet and Russian-origin equipment used by both sides. “Both sides have experience and we could join our efforts in this area, logically it is pushing us (to reach an agreement,” he said.
Last October, Kazakhstan sent troops for a UN peacekeeping mission for the first time to Lebanon and they were serving with an Indian battalion. “This is a good example of the trust between the two countries,” the envoy said.
Sarsenbayev, who is also accredited as the ambassador to Sri Lanka, said the Easter Sunday suicide attacks that killed nearly 360 in the island nation underlined the need for a global campaign to counter terrorism. All countries should have the same approach and there should be a “uniform designation of terrorists”, he added.
The third consultations between the security councils of India and Kazakhstan were held in March after a gap of two years and the two sides had agreed to meet twice a year in view of the rapidly changing security threats, he said.
Kazakhstan will also cooperate with India and other countries to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan, which shares borders with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, he said: “We have no borders with Afghanistan but we are still close, we understand the importance of establishing stability in this country and we actively do it.”
Sarsenbayev said Kazakhstan also hoped that India and Pakistan would find a way to address the tensions that followed the Pulwama terror attack in February. “I hope the two countries understand clearly the consequences of escalating the situation. That’s why it’s important for…not only Kazakhstan and (the rest of the world, (as the two countries possess nuclear weapons and this is a danger,” he said.
Bilateral trade hit $1.2 billion last year, with the balance in Kazakhstan’s favour and Sarsenbayev said his country could serve as a hub in Central Asia for Indian firms, especially in
financial technology and pharmaceuticals. He said a new bilateral special working group on transport and logistics is expected to meet in May to
discuss better connectivity