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Is Russia expanding its South Asia footprint with nuclear offer to Sri Lanka? 

Representational photo: Russia and Iran develop the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (NPP)

Sri Lankan ambassador to Russia, Janitha Abeywickrema Liyanage said that the island nation has reached a deal with Russian nuclear giant Rosatom to build a nuclear power plant that may run two reactors and generate 300 megawatts of energy.

Russian media organisation Sputnik quoted her as saying: “There is a proposal and there is approval to follow the procedures from the Sri Lankan cabinet, and the International Atomic Energy Agency is also now looking at it, and they have set up certain working groups. Rosatom has set up four working groups in four different areas”.

Liyanage spoke with the Russian media on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

However, Sri Lankan newspaper Daily Mirror quoted Power and Energy Ministry Secretary Mapa Pathirana as saying that the country is still studying multiple aspects before deciding on a nuclear power plant and therefore the government has not reached any final position.

Pathirana said: “We have to look at safety aspects. Also, we need to explore the international conventions on nuclear power”.

Colombo plans to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and also tackle its energy crisis. A nuclear power plant will help it revive its collapsed economy through reduced imports of fossil fuels.

Russia is also developing the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant for Bangladesh on the bank of the Padma river with Indian support. Russia also built the nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in India in Tamil Nadu.

The reach-out to Sri Lanka shows that Russia is keen on expanding its footprint in South Asia, where China is locked in a tussle with India for influence.