India inks nuclear commerce pact with Canada

NEW DELHI: Around 40 years after India used plutonium from a Canadian heavy water reactor to carry out its first nuclear test in defiance of world opinion, Ottawa is set to resume nuclear commerce with New Delhi.

Earlier this week, India and Canada vaulted the final hurdle in dismantling sanctions imposed after the Pokhran I test by signing an Appropriate Arrangement Agreement (AAA) that will allow Canada to ship uranium to India.

The agreement was signed between the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and India’s Department of Atomic Energy. Canada is home to the second most significant uranium mining industry in the world after Kazakhstan.

France and Russia have supplied some quantities of uranium, but Canada did not after the nuclear embargo imposed by the developed world on India. An agreement with Australia has been inked, but a safeguards framework is still being negotiated.

Nuclear cooperation with Canada has high symbolic significance for India as it marks a change, as PM Manmohan Singh himself earlier put it, in international realities. Ottawa had stopped all such cooperation after India used plutonium from the Canadian reactor to built its first atomic bomb.

Signed in 2010

India and Canada had signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement in 2010 that allowed them to initiate negotiations for supply of uranium, or the AAA. Canada’s insistence on having a stringent monitoring mechanism for use of its uranium by India led to a stalemate in the talks.

Canada, however, seems to have relented when PM Stephen Harper declared during his highly successful visit to India last November that both countries have concluded negotiations. The AAA still needed to be signed, though. Government sources here said Canada will use nuclear watchdog IAEA’s safeguards already in place to ensure its uranium is not used for advancing India’s nuclear weapon programme.

India had maintained all along during the negotiations that its safeguards agreement with IAEA – signed in February 2009 — was enough to take care of Canada’s concerns over non-proliferation and how New Delhi was going to use its uranium meant only for civilian facilities.

The US, which yanked India out of nuclear isolation, was the driving force behind the safeguards agreement – approved by the IAEA in August 2008 – that paved the way for a special waiver from Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) allowing New Delhi to indulge in nuclear commerce despite not having signed NPT.

The Indian government believes Canada, with its large and high-quality reserves of uranium, could become an important supplier for India’s ambitious nuclear power programme that envisages 30,000 MW of nuclear power by 2030. India’s current nuclear power production stands at a paltry 5,000MW. According to experts just producing 200 MW of nuclear power can require over 30 tonnes of uranium.

Sourcing uranium

* To meet uranium shortfall India has signed civil nuclear cooperation deals with some of the most important uranium producing countries like Canada, Kazakhstan, Australia, Namibia and Mongolia.

* France and Russia are already supplying uranium to India, but with Australia it is having to negotiate a uranium safeguards agreement.

* India wants to increase nuclear power to over 20,000MW by 2020. This is four times the current production and involves an annual increase in uranium demand by 1,500 tonnes.

* India currently produces 450 metric tonnes of uranium and its reserves are modest: 61,000 tonnes of recoverable metal.


AERO INDIA: Indian air force chief slams HAL trainers

By:   Greg Waldron Bangalore
02:35 8 Feb 2013



The Indian air force’s most senior officer has cast further doubt on the future of the Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) HTT-40 basic trainer, and also criticised the company’s HJT-36 Sitara jet trainer during a media briefing at the Aero India show.

Although bad relations between HAL and its biggest customer, the Indian air force, have been reported for years, the event at Yelahanka air base, near Bengaluru, gave a unique glimpse into the differences between the two parties.

“We have the Pilatus PC-7 MkII trainer now,” says Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne. “It is a fully proven trainer flown by many countries globally. HAL’s project to make [the HTT-40] from scratch means that costs are bound to be higher. The Indian air force would also have to pay for research and development. In our view there is no need for this. We need to stick to one trainer, and we have advised the government of this.”

This is not the first time the air force has questioned the HTT-40. In late 2012, media reports indicated the service had rejected the trainer. Moreover, New Delhi is obtaining 75 Pilatus PC-7 MkIIs off the shelf after conducting a competition for a new basic trainer.

In January 2013, widespread Indian media reports claimed a 30-aircraft follow-on purchase had also been confirmed, but a Pilatus representative at Aero India told Flightglobal the reports are false.

Browne also criticised HAL’s developmental HJT-36, referred to generally as the ‘IJT’, or intermediate jet trainer. The project has suffered years of delays, and several well-publicised accidents. Browne says the HJT-36’s powerplant, the Russian-made NPO Saturn AL-55I afterburning turbofan, is of particular concern, with a time before overhaul of only 200h.

Flightglobal’s World Air Forces directory for 2013 states that New Delhi has ordered 16 HJT-36s, which will fit mid-way between a basic trainer and the air force’s BAE Systems Hawk 132 advanced jet trainers, which HAL builds under licence.

Browne’s comments were especially notable, because he made them only 2h after a media briefing by HAL chairman RK Tyagi.

Tyagi said it would be cheaper for New Delhi to create an indigenous basic trainer with the supply chain located mainly in India. He also defended the HJT-36, noting it has conducted 647 test flights, of which 185 took place in 2012. The type also conducted 45 flights in January 2013, including night flights, he adds.

“We are confident that the [HJT-36] can achieve its IOC [initial operating capability] in December this year,” Tyagi says.

During this year’s show, the air force’s first PC-7 MkII appeared in the static park, while HAL displayed a full-sized mock-up of the HTT-40 at its stand.

Shiv Aroor, author of the Livefist defence blog, takes issue with the air force’s decision to display the Pilatus aircraft.

“Why in the world would you display a trainer aircraft that represents – if nothing else – India’s complete inability to build even a basic airplane for its armed forces,” writes Aroor in a blog post. “It occurred to me then that this is probably precisely why the Indian air force has the PC-7 on the flight line. As a mocking jibe, perhaps, at HAL which will unveil a mock-up of its all-but-dead HTT-40 basic trainer concept.”

Irrespective of the air force’s views toward HAL it is, to a large degree, stuck with the government-owned aircraft maker for decades to come. HAL is the prime contractor for the future fifth-generation fighter aircraft, based on the Sukhoi PAK-FA/T-50 and being co-developed by the companies.

HAL will also produce 108 aircraft under the medium multi-role combat aircraft contract, with Dassault in final negotiations with New Delhi for a total 126-unit order for its Rafale. These are but two of HAL’s numerous air force programmes.

“We have a functional relationship with HAL,” says Browne. “The air force relies on HAL not only for aircraft but also for upgrades and other modifications. This relationship goes back decades to the time HAL was formed.”

India-France giant fighter jet deal stalled: report


NEW DELHI: India’s negotiations with France’s Dassault Aviation on a $12-billion deal for Rafale fighter jets have stalled due to disagreements over the production of the planes in India, a report said Friday.


The defence deal, one of the biggest ever, was to see the manufacture of the first 18 of the jets in France with the remainder to be produced under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a state-run Indian aerospace behemoth.

The Indian Express newspaper, citing anonymous sources in its report, said that Dassault had refused to take responsibility for the 108 jets to be manufactured by HAL, sparking a row with New Delhi.

The French firm reportedly told Indian officials that New Delhi would have to negotiate two contracts, one with Dassault for 18 fighters and the other with HAL for the remaining 108 aircraft.

The defence ministry “completely rejected this suggestion and made it clear to Dassault that it (the French company) will be solely responsible for the sale and delivery of all 126 aircraft,” the newspaper reported, citing sources.

Dassault is thought to have reservations about the ability of HAL, a firm renowned for its inefficiencies, to handle the complex manufacturing and technology transfers which are a crucial part of the deal.

The Rafale beat off stiff competition from six rivals from Russia, the US and Europe last year when India selected the French fighter to replace its ageing fleet.

Its main rival, the Eurofighter made by European group EADS, has remained in India and is still hoping to bag the deal in case Dassault is unable to conclude the negotiations successfully.

A Dassault spokeswoman said she was unable to comment immediately on the report.

The Rafale has carried out bombing missions in Afghanistan, Libya and most recently in Mali, where it is currently flying sorties targeting Islamist militants.

India’s air force chief said in February that the country hopes to sign the deal with Dassault Aviation by the middle of the year.