India, France hopeful of inking nuclear pact Tuesday

September 28th, 2008 - 9:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghMarseilles, Sep 28 (IANS) With the India-US civil nuclear deal set to be wrapped up, India and France Sunday said they are hopeful of signing a similar ground-breaking nuclear cooperation pact - the first such for New Delhi after a gap of over three decades.French ambassador to India Jerome Bonnafont, who received Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Marseilles airport Sunday, told IANS that France was hopeful of signing the bilateral nuclear pact. “We are hopeful. Let’s see,” he said.

One more agreement on space cooperation will be signed, Bonnafont said.

The atomic pact is likely be signed by Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodkar and his French counterpart.

The agreement with France will be the first since the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on Sep 6 decided to remove its restrictions on global civil nuclear trade with India.

Ahead of the India-EU summit that begins Monday in Marseilles, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday expressed hope that the nuclear pact between India and France will come up for “possible signature” after his talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris Tuesday.

“We have already initialled a framework agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation earlier this year. It will come up for review and possible signature during the visit,” Manmohan Singh told reporters aboard his special aircraft on way from New York to Marseilles.

The framework agreement was inked during Sarkozy’s visit to India in January this year.

Manmohan Singh said he was “looking forward” to his meeting with Sarkozy, first at the India-EU summit in Marseilles Monday and then in Paris the next day. France currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

Manmohan Singh would leave for Paris Tuesday where he will hold talks with Sarkozy on a wide range of bilateral issues including civil nuclear cooperation, defence, space, and business.

Manmohan Singh will also participate in the EU-India Business Forum organised by MEDEF, the French Association of Enterprises in Paris. Commerce and Industries Minister Kamal Nath and his delegation will later meet a number of French CEOs.

It was not clear whether the timing of the signing of the pact will be linked to the passage of the bill by the US Congress. The US House of Representatives Saturday passed the 123 agreement by a 298-117 vote, clearing one more hurdle in the path of the landmark nuclear deal. The deal is expected to be cleared by the Senate Monday-Tuesday.

French companies hope to get a large chunk of India’s multi-billion dollar nuclear pie.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) has already held exploratory meetings and technical discussions with three global reactor suppliers including Areva of France.

Tata Power Company has tied up with major nuclear equipment suppliers like Areva and established a relationship with Toshiba. Several other Indian firms including Reliance Infrastructure and Larsen and Toubro are also working on their nuclear power generation plans.

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