EU backs n-cooperation with India, to clinch FTA (Roundup)

September 29th, 2008 - 11:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghMarseille, Sep 29 (IANS) A day before India and France sign an atomic pact, the 27-nation European Union Monday backed civil nuclear cooperation with India even as the two sides decided to double their bilateral trade to 100 billion euros and to clinch a free trade area (FTA) agreement between them. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held discussions with the EU troika, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also president of the EU, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana.

They discussed a range of global issues, including terrorism, climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, food security and energy security and global economy.

In a major step to take their multi-faceted strategic partnership to new heights, India and the EU decided to double their bilateral trade to 100 billion euros in five years and to accelerate negotiations to clinch an FTA agreement.

Bilateral trade between India and the EU has exceeded 50 billion euros. EU is India’s largest trading partner. The two sides between them have a combined GDP of over $13 trillion.

Lauding India’s rising global profile, Sarkozy stressed the world cannot solve its problems without India’s support.

“How can we fight climate change without India’s participation? We can’t tell India to combat climate change without clean nuclear energy,” Sarkozy told reporters at a joint press interaction with Manmohan Singh after the 9th India-EU summit held in the port town of Marseilles.

“India is a major power. In the next 20-30 years, India will be the first power in terms of demographics,” Sarkozy said while lauding India’s emergence on the global stage.

“France trusts India and Indian prime minister. In all likelihood, we shall have discussions tomorrow and take a decision,” Sarkozy told reporters when asked whether India and France will sign the bilateral nuclear cooperation pact in Paris Tuesday.

The EU’s positive attitude towards civilian nuclear cooperation with India stands in sharp contrast to its ambivalent stand on this issue before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) allowed New Delhi to resume global nuclear trade.

A day before he holds talks with Sarkozy in Paris, Manmohan Singh raised hopes for signing the nuclear pact with France, saying: “I hope some good results will flow from this meeting.”

“We look forward to working with France and other countries,” Manmohan Singh said while alluding to the waiver granted by the NSG Sep 6 that enables India to resume nuclear trade with the world.

“India seeks cooperation with all countries of the world in matters of civil nuclear cooperation. The US Congress is engaged in the process that will permit civilian nuclear cooperation between India and the US,” the prime minister stressed as the US Senate prepared to take up the 123 India-US bilateral nuclear agreement for a vote, likely Monday/Tuesday.

India and the EU will sign an agreement on the ambitious multi-billion dollar International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project soon.

The ITER agreement will gain impetus with the conclusion of the agreement between Euratom and India in the field of fusion energy research, a joint statement said at the end of the day-long India-EU summit.

India and the EU approved the revised joint action plan extending the strategic partnership of 2005 to new areas and agreed on a joint programme on energy, clean development and climate change.

They also approved a horizontal civil aviation agreement signed Sunday and the launch of a European business and technology centre in India to promote business-to-business and research cooperation between the two sides.

In a growing convergence of views on global issues, India and the EU expressed their “serious concern over the Iranian nuclear issue and called on Iran to take steps to reestablish confidence in the nature of its nuclear programme”, the joint statement said.

Condemning terrorism in all its forms, the two sides agreed to work actively towards a swift finalisation of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

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