Today's Paper

India, France sign 5 nuclear pacts

An eventful day: French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh exchange pleasantries at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Monday after India and France signed seven agreements. — Photo: V.V. Krishnan

An eventful day: French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh exchange pleasantries at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Monday after India and France signed seven agreements. — Photo: V.V. Krishnan  

Resolve to double trade to €12 billion; cooperation in counter-terrorism discussed

India and France on Monday signed seven agreements, including five in the area of nuclear energy, to pave the way for more intensive cooperation in this sector.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who presided over the signing of the pacts, resolved to double bilateral trade to €12 billion.

During a 90-minute interaction, the two leaders touched on areas such as defence, infrastructure, energy, space, research and development, and joint ventures where cooperation could be stepped up.

Dr. Singh and Mr. Sarkozy also discussed cooperation in counter-terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Asked about Pakistan's role in combating terrorism, Mr. Sarkozy noted that France had lost two of its nationals in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Along with economic development, he said, Pakistan must maintain the resolve to fight terrorism.

“I appreciate India's initiative to reach out to Pakistan after the attacks,” he said, hoping that the two countries would follow the example of the European Union, whose members buried centuries of hostility to develop and grow together.

No defence pact yet

In the area of defence, the presence of CEOs of most major French armament companies could not seal any agreement.

“We are going to sign the agreement soon. We are delighted that India places trust in us,” Mr. Sarkozy said of the long-pending agreement to upgrade the Indian Air Force's (IAF) Mirage fighters.

He pitched for the French fighter Rafael, which is one of the six competitors for a mega IAF tender for fighter planes. He also offered to cooperate with India in developing a fifth generation fighter aircraft.

Dr. Singh, in his opening remarks, termed France “India's most important and reliable defence partner” and acknowledged its supply of advanced defence technologies to the Indian armed forces.

Besides the five pacts in civil nuclear cooperation, one each was signed for co-production of films and cooperation in the Earth System Science and Climate.

Maharashtra reactors

The highlight of Mr. Sarkozy's visit was a pact for the construction of two French nuclear power reactors in Maharashtra. The number may go up to six, with Dr. Singh hoping that the nuclear park would ultimately supply 10,000 MW of electricity to the Indian grid. He compared this potential to the total indigenous installed capacity of 4,000 MW from nuclear energy.

At the same time, however, Dr. Singh indicated that several details remained to be filled in for the agreement to become operational.

“The framework agreement has been signed between Areva and NPCIL. There are issues with regard to other technical matters, including pricing. These are the subject matter of negotiations,” the Prime Minister said at a media interaction that followed the signing of the agreements.

Official sources said another impediment was the lack of an inter-governmental agreement with Japan, whose companies would supply some critical components to Areva.

“Several other agreements to expand interaction in the nuclear sector to areas such as research and training of scientists and students, nuclear safety, nuclear waste management and regulatory practices have been concluded,” Dr. Singh said.

France has offered to invest over €10 billion in India over the next two years if India liberalised the norms for multi-brand retail and insurance sectors.

Recommended for you