India, France sign civilian nuclear pact (Lead)

September 30th, 2008 - 7:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghParis, Sep 30 (IANS) India Tuesday inked a civil nuclear agreement with France, a country that depends overwhelmingly on nuclear power, as Paris became the first capital to sign up to do nuclear trade with New Delhi after three decades of a trade embargo were lifted by the global atomic cartel. In the presence of visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the two countries announced a “a new dimension” to their strategic partnership by signing a cooperation agreement on civilian nuclear energy as well as two more pacts in areas ranging from space and counter-terrorism to business and high-end research.

The pact clears the way for French companies like Areva to begin supply nuclear reactors to India. The actual nuclear trade may, however, have to wait till India signs the 123 bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the US which is currently in consideration by the US Senate. Areva is already involved in negotiating the sale of two European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) with India.

Nuclear power accounts for about 77 percent of France’s electricity requirements. According to published data, France has 58 operating reactors, the highest numbers after the US.

“Today we have added a new dimension to our strategic partnership by signing an inter-governmental agreement on civil nuclear cooperation,” a beaming Manmohan Singh, who has taken the lead in the long battle for India’s nuclear liberation, said after holding talks with Sarkozy.

“I believe my visit has opened new vistas in our relations with France which are based on the solid foundation of our shared commitment to democracy, pluralism and the rule of law,” Manmohan Singh said in remarks to the press.

The two countries also decided to accelerate business by setting up a bilateral trade target of 12 billion euros by 2012 and jointly advocated reform of the UN and international financial institutions.

They also signed a pact on peaceful uses of outer space and a social security agreement that will ease working of Indian professionals in France.

They also decided to transform current buyer-seller relationship in the defence field to joint production and transfer of cutting-edge technology.

The bilateral nuclear cooperation pact was signed by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and India’s Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodkar, a key interlocutor on nuclear issues with both the US and France, at the Elysee Palace.

The agreement makes Paris the first country to sign such a pact after the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group Sept 6 lifted over three decades of global restrictions on nuclear trade with India.

The agreement on the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy will form the basis of wide-ranging bilateral civil nuclear cooperation. The cooperation will span the entire gamut from basic and applied research to reactors, nuclear fuel supply, nuclear safety, radiation and environment, protection and nuclear fuel cycle management.

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