India, Namibia sign uranium supply deal

New Delhi, August 31: India and Namibia Monday signed five agreements, including one on civil nuclear energy which allows for supply of uranium from the African country.

This was decided at the start of President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s five-day visit to India – which is the first state visit by a foreign head of state in the second term of the United Progressive Alliance, which was re-elected to power in May 2009.

After a ceremonial welcome at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, Pohamba had a discussion with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during which they especially laid stress on expanding economic ties.

“Our relations with Namibia have strong historical roots, which predate Namibia’s independence. They are warm, cooperative and based on profound understanding of each other’s aspirations,” Singh said in a statement after the meeting.

He was referring to the fact that the first ever mission of South West African Peoples Organisation (Swapo) was given full diplomatic recognition by India in 1986, even before Nambia got full independence.

After the discussions, both countries signed five agreements, including one on supply of Namibian uranium to India.

Later, addressing captains of Indian Industry, Pohamba noted that uranium and diamonds were sectors ripe for Indian industry to enter the Namibian market.

“Among the agreements that we signed today (Monday) is the cooperation between us on uranium. I believe that we have the best uranium in the world,” he said. Nambia is the fifth largest producer of uranium in the world.

After Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) allowed trade in nuclear technology and fuel with India, the South Asian country has been looking to ramp up its production of nuclear energy to meet its need for increasing electricity.

But, with limited domestic uranium reserves, India has been looking abroad to get assured supplies. It has already signed an agreement with Kazakhstan. Australia has, however, so far refused to supply uranium to India, unless it signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Indo-Namibian agreement in peaceful uses of nuclear energy allows for supply of uranium and setting up of nuclear reactors.

The Indian cabinet had last week also given the green light to the government to sign an umbrella agreement with Namibia in the lucrative area of mining.

The Namibian president also invited Indian industrialists to try and redress the balance of trade which was heavily in favour of India. While exports from India stood at $40 million for 2007-8, imports of Nambia were at nearly half at $21 million.

“We should, therefore, work hard to bring about more exports from Namibia to India,” he said.

Pohamba asked for Indian businesses to look at Namibia for its diamonds, “which are the best in the world”.

“This year, my colleague, minister of mines said, why can’t we have some of the diamonds go to india, so that they can see the value of the Namibian diamond. I said go ahead. So that there are some packs of diamonds which came to India this year,” he said.

India has been strongly advocating for the Africanisation of the diamond trade, where the countries get the benefit from the industry.

Later Monday evening, the Namibian president attended a state banquet in his honour thrown by President Pratibha Patil at the presidential palace.