M A I N   N E W S

Major N-pact inked with France
Two new reactors for Maharashtra;
Mirage upgrade deal almost through
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 6
India and France today signed a multi-million dollar deal for the construction of two nuclear power plants at Jaitapur in Maharashtra and virtually finalised the contract for upgrading 51 Mirage 2000 for the Indian Air Force (IAF) as French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed solidarity with India in the fight against terrorism.

Under the general framework agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, France’s major nuclear power giant AREVA will build two European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) of 1650 MW each. The agreement, estimated at about 9.5 billion dollars, was signed between AREVA and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) after extensive talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the French President. The Jaitapur site, which is intended to have six reactors in all, will ultimately produce 10,000 MW of power.

France thus became the first country to sign an accord to set up nuclear reactors in India, more than two years after New Delhi got a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) to undertake nuclear commerce.

The French leader, here on a mission to enhance the strategic relationship with India, was quite forthright during the Q & A session with journalists in asking Pakistan to fight terrorism with sincerity and greater determination. “Pakistan must develop and live in peace with India,” he said and explained how the European countries had buried their bitter past and formed the European Union (EU) for the overall prosperity of the continent.

Sarkozy strongly pitched for the inclusion of India as a permanent member in the UN Security Council. It was difficult to comprehend how a nation of more than one billion people could be kept out of the decision-making organ of the world body.

He is understood to have conveyed to the Indian Prime Minister some of the concerns expressed by the French nuclear players over the civil nuclear liability law. He was of the view that Indian nuclear liability norms should be in conformity with international standards. Later answering questions from reporters, Manmohan Singh said technical matters, including pricing, were subject matters of discussions between the two sides.

However, it was information about the increasing Indo-French defence cooperation in the field of defence that the French President was more than excited to share with the media. He announced that the two sides had finalised an agreement for the upgrading Mirage 2000 fighters. The deal is said to be worth 2.1 billion dollars.

On the proposal to sell Rafale fighter jets to India, he said it was the best available aircraft in the market. The bidding process had just begun and Paris was in touch with New Delhi in this regard.

The joint statement issued by the two sides merely stated that discussions concerning the upgrading of Mirage 2000 were expected to be finalised soon. The high cost of upgrading the fighters was hitherto causing a rethink in the Indian establishment.

The Indian Prime Minister also briefly spoke about the defence cooperation, saying France was one of India’s most important and reliable defence partners. “We deeply appreciate France’s willingness to supply us advanced defence technologies in a way that contributes to the modernisation of our defence industry.” He said counter-terrorism was a significant area of cooperation, where the two sides were making good progress.

Apart from the general framework agreement for setting up nuclear power plants, the two countries signed six accords. They are: agreement on film co-production; accord concerning intellectual property rights on the development of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; cooperation agreement between the departments of atomic energy of the two countries in the field of nuclear science and technology for peaceful uses of nuclear energy; agreement on the protection of confidentiality of technical data and information relating to cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuke energy; early works agreement between NPCIL and AREVA for implementation of EPR units at the Jaitapur site; and MOU between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its French counterpart for cooperation in earth system science and climate.

In the joint statement, the two countries described terrorism as a common threat that needed to be countered jointly by the international community. They underlined the need for adequate development of the Afghan National Security Forces to enable Afghanistan to defend its sovereignty and independence. They also expressed concern at the continuing existence of safe havens and sanctuaries for terrorist groups beyond Afghanistan’s borders and resurgence of terror groups.

In the context of their shared commitment to universal and general disarmament and to the reinforcement of the non-proliferation regime, the two countries affirmed the need for a meaningful dialogue among all states possessing nuclear weapons, in particular those holding the largest arsenals, to build trust and confidence and promote international stability, peace and security.

They supported international cooperative efforts to reduce the risk of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons or material.





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