6 Dec : Injecting a new impetus to their strategic ties, India and France on Monday signed seven agreements, including one for setting up of a nuclear plant in Maharashtra, the first such pact after the end of New Delhi’s isolation in the nuclear field.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French President Nicolas Sarkozy also decided to work for doubling bilateral trade to 12 billion Euros by 2012, much of which is expected to be propelled by enhanced cooperation in the fields of civil nuclear energy and civil aviation.
Dr. Singh and Sarkozy held extensive talks on a host of issues like enhancement of bilateral ties in a wide range of areas such as defence, counter-terrorism, space, science and technology besides discussing the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
After the talks, the two sides signed seven pacts, five of them in civil nuclear field and one each for co-production of films and cooperation in the Earth System Science and Climate.
The key agreement was on construction of two 1650 MW nuclear power reactors in Jaitapur in Maharashtra, which marks the first such plant to be set up in India after the Nuclear Suppliers Group ended New Delhi’s isolation in the field in 2008.
The General Framework Agreement for building the European Pressure Reactors was signed between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and French company Areva.
The plant, which is intended to have six reactors in all at the cost of 25 billion dollars, will ultimately produce 10,000 MW of power.
However, operationalisation of the agreement will take some time as negotiations on technical issues like pricing are still underway.
“The framework agreement has been signed between Areva and NPCIL. There are issues with regard to other technical matters including pricing. These are subject matter of negotiations,” Dr. Singh told reporters at a joint press conference with Sarkozy.
Agreements have been signed and clearances granted for the first two nuclear power plants.
Areva has said it would take upto seven years for the first nuclear power plant to be made operational after the first pour of concrete.
While noting that India’s current nuclear power generation capacity is 4000 MW, Dr. Singh said setting up of the plant with the help of Areva will go a long way in enhancing the country’s electricity production.
The other pacts signed in the civil nuclear field include Early Works Agreement between NPCIL and AREVA for Implementation of EPR units at Jaitapur.
While noting that pricing of electricity generated by Jaitapur plant will be part of the agreement, Sarkozy said France will do its utmost to ensure that the reactors are built as speedily as possible.
The two reactors of Jaitapur would be built at a cost of 7 billion Euros and will have guaranteed fuel supply from France for 25 years.
An agreement for cooperation between the Department of Atomic Energy and Commissariat A L’energie Atomique Et Aux Energies Alternatives in the field of Nuclear Science and Technology for Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy was also signed.
The two sides also inked two agreements one pertaining to Protection of Confidentiality of Technical Data and Information Relating to Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy and the other concerning Intellectual Property Rights on the Development of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.
“In the field of nuclear energy, negotiations have reached an advanced stage to pave the way for the launching of nuclear power reactors in Jaitapur in partnership with Indian industry,” Dr. Singh said.
“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,” he added.
Describing France as India’s “most important and reliable defence partner”, the Prime Minister appreciated Paris’ willingness to supply advanced defence technologies to contribute to the modernisation of this industry.
With regard to terrorism, Sarkozy asked Pakistan to fight the menace determinedly while applauding India’s efforts to normalise relations with Pakistan.
“With the tragic losses suffered in November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai particularly in mind, we call for the active prosecution of the authors of such crimes and their accomplices and urge that they be brought to justice expeditiously,” said a Joint Statement issued after the talks.
Both leaders expressed concern at the “continuing existence of safe havens and sanctuaries for terrorist groups beyond Afghanistan’s borders and resurgence of terrorist groups”, it said in an apparent reference to Pakistan.
They agreed that terrorism must be combated firmly by the international community and asked the “neighbours” of Afghanistan to play a “constructive role conducive to the country’s stabilisation and development in its regional environment”, the statement said.
He identified counter-terrorism as a significant area of cooperation where the two sides are making good progress.
The two sides also decided to work together in the international bodies to counter financing of terrorism and money-laundering.
Sarkozy also pitched for permanent seat for India in the expanded UN Security Council and other global bodies, terming it as important for equilibrium in the world.
“India and France reiterated the need for in-depth reform of United Nations, including of its Security Council, to make it more representative of today’s world,” the statement said on Tuesday.
“With the French Presidency of the G-20 which has just started, India’s dual participation in the G-20 and the Security Council for the 2010/2011 time-frame present a historic opportunity to step up joint work in these two bodies,” the statement said.
The two sides affirmed their wish to continue and expand their dialogue and concrete cooperation in multilateral bodies, especially in UNSC during 2010-11 to address threats such as regional crises, terrorism, climate change and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, as well as to promote arms control and global disarmament.
France committed to jointly work with India towards India’s increased participation with international non-proliferation initiatives and full membership of multilateral export control regimes like NSG, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and Australia Group “in a manner consistent with procedures and objectives of these groups”.
The two countries reiterated their support to starting immediate negotiations in the Conference of Disarmament for multilateral treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
“In 2008 itself, I had supported the idea of India becoming member of all nuclear fora in the world,” Sarkozy said.
The two leaders welcomed the ongoing efforts and future prospects for joint programmes in defence industry, which would include joint research and development and transfer of technology.
As a first step in this regard, the two sides expect to launch soon the programme for development of Short-Range Surface-to-Air Missiles and Kaveri engines for India’s Light Combat Aircraft.
Discussions concerning the upgrading of Mirage 2000 aircraft are expected to be finalised soon, it said.
With regard to tensions on the Korean peninsula, the two leaders expressed concern about the situation there and urged North Korea to comply with UNSC and IAEA Board of Governors resolutions.
On Iran, the two sides affirmed their commitment to resolve the nuclear issue and discussed the need for Tehran to take constructive and immediate steps to meet its obligations to the IAEA and the UNSC.