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France for nuclear pact with India

French Ambassador Jerome Bonnafont at The Hindu office in Chennai on Thursday.

French Ambassador Jerome Bonnafont at The Hindu office in Chennai on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: N. Sridharan

Ananth Krishnan and Priscilla Jebaraj

CHENNAI: France was looking forward to “large-scale nuclear co-operation” with India in the civilian arena once India reached a satisfactory agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), French Ambassador to India Jerome Bonnafont said here on Thursday.

France was even “ready to sign” a nuclear agreement with India, but only after India agreed to a safeguards agreement with the IAEA and received exemption from the NSG.

“A bilateral agreement has already been technically finalised,” Mr. Bonnafont told The Hindu. “The negotiators have said we have to come to a positive outcome as far as the technical content of the agreement is concerned.”

Mr. Bonnafont said India would significantly benefit from developing and expanding its civilian nuclear programme. He said India could “save on oil, gas and carbon dioxide emissions and also gain [energy] independence and economic growth” if it raised the contribution of nuclear power to the country’s energy requirement to 10 per cent from the current 2 per cent. Around 40 per cent of France’s energy requirement comes from nuclear energy.

On climate change, Mr. Bonnafont rejected India’s stand on continuing with the Kyoto Protocol formula of no commitments by developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He says there has been a “sea change” in the world order since the Protocol first came into existence. He expected large developing countries to agree to mandatory targets to control emissions growth, supported by adequate financing and transfer of technologies, including nuclear energy technologies.

Global role

France was also supportive of a greater role for India in global affairs, and the expansion of the G8 group of countries to a “G13 or G14” to include nations such as India. “We support India’s Security Council demand as 100 per cent legitimate,” Mr Bonnafont said. “We strongly believe it is clear that countries like India and Brazil have to be a part of the Security Council. Without these countries, how can you address in a fair manner issues of global security?”

Besides strategic issues, France was looking to expand its economic and educational ties with India. “Our exports and imports are growing at 25 to 30 per cent every year … and we have been able to fix a new target of doubling the value of trade within the next 5 years,” Mr. Bonnafont said.

At present, trade with France constitutes only 1.6 per cent of India’s exports and 2 per cent of imports.

Mr. Bonnafont said France was looking to facilitate university-to-university agreements and student exchanges between the two countries. On Thursday, Mr. Bonnafont met with the Vice-Chancellor of Madras University to explore tie-ups. During President Sarkozy’s recent visit to the country, education was a subject of focus, with the two countries inking 21 agreements.

“There is a lot to be done as far as scientific and university exchanges are concerned,” he said. “They are not yet as active and widespread as should be … and we want to have more Indian students in France.” Out of the 2.50 lakh foreign students in France, only 1,280 are from India — less than one-tenth the number of Chinese students in the country.

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