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India, France to sign nuke, defence pacts

Sunday 5 February 2006

Indo-Asian News Service

New Delhi, February 5, 2006 : India and France are set to sign defining pacts on civil nuclear energy and defence cooperation during the three-day visit of French President Jacques Chirac beginning February 19.

"We want India to gain nuclear energy and nuclear status. We were the ones who supported India after the 1998 blasts when other countries were talking about sanctions," French envoy Dominique Girard said.

"We want India to get the benefits of civil nuclear energy," the French envoy stressed as he spoke about enthusiasm on both sides about Chirac’s visit, the first by a French president in the last eight years. Chirac last visited India in 1998.

Paris’ enthusiasm for promoting nuclear energy cooperation with New Delhi will be evident from the presence of top officials of France’s Nuclear Energy Commission and the CEO of Avera, one of the biggest manufacturers of pressurised nuclear reactors, in Chirac’s delegation.

Five senior ministers and 70 top businessmen and officials are also accompanying Chirac on his three-day India visit that will be a testimony to India’s rising global stature and its attractiveness as a global investment hub.

Bilateral civil nuclear cooperation will be the culmination of nearly a decade-long nuclear diplomacy between the two countries, reinforced by the consistent French support for India’s nuclear energy needs since New Delhi’s nuclear tests in 1998.

The India-France nuclear energy agreement will record efforts made by India to promote nuclear non-proliferation and ask nuclear suppliers to make an exception in the case of India to facilitate nuclear business, but this will be translated into reality only after New Delhi separates its civilian and military nuclear facilities to their satisfaction.

"It will be very similar in nature to the India-US civil nuclear energy cooperation pact as reflected in the joint statement, but details might differ," a knowledgeable source said.

The deal with France, which comes at a time when Europe is undergoing a rethink on the future of nuclear power, will however give a big push to creating a favourable international climate, especially in the influential 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), for dismantling technology denial regimes in favour of India.

The framework defence cooperation agreement will place the joint exercises between the armed forces, the joint production of armaments and other aspects of defence ties between the two countries in a broad framework that will be reflected in the joint statement.

During Manmohan Singh’s visit to Paris, India had signed two multi-billion dollar deals on buying six Franco-Spanish Scorpene submarines and 43 Airbus aircraft.

Besides significant strategic thrusts, the two sides plan to inject fresh economic vitality in a relationship by encouraging the two-way investment and entering into more joint ventures in power, infrastructure, biotechnology and knowledge-driven industries like IT.

India’s vibrant economy and the growing ranks of its middle class market are further added attractions for the French who have already pumped foreign direct investment (FDI) worth $760 million into the country.

See online : The Hindustan Times

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