Bangalore: Nearly a month after the US backed India's bid to join top non-proliferation groupings, French President Nicolas Sarkozy Saturday declared support for New Delhi's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group as well as an expanded UN Security Council.
Sarkozy, in an interview, has also said that he will take up issues relating to the civil nuclear liability legislation when he meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for official talks in New Delhi Monday.
Supporting India's candidacy to join the 45-nation NSG, Sarkozy said it made sense for the country to participate in the work of multilateral bodies responsible for drafting and ensuring compliance with the non-proliferation regime.
"France was first to say in 1998 that it was time to put an end to India's nuclear isolation, as it was absurd to prevent such a country from developing its civilian nuclear sector," Sarkozy said at the Satellite Centre of the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) here.
"France, the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom have already signed agreements with India. Others will also soon join them," Sarkozy said.
"That's why it makes sense for India to now participate fully in the work of the multilateral bodies responsible for drafting and ensuring compliance with the non-proliferation regime, starting with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. France supports India's candidacy to join these groups," he said.
Sarkozy's support to India for the NSG entry comes nearly a month after US President Barack Obama supported New Delhi's full membership in multilateral groupings like the NSG, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MCTR), the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement.
Sarkozy, who began his four-day India visit here Saturday, declared that nuclear energy would be the focus of cooperation between the two countries in the years ahead.
"Nuclear energy will now be the focus of our cooperation. We all know how critical it is for India to ensure its energy security," Sarkozy told about 500 invitees at ISRO, comprising top scientists, captains of industry and students.
Noting that the bilateral civil nuclear agreement signed in Paris Sep 30, 2008, became a reality a decade after France initiated the move to end India's nuclear isolation, Sarkozy said his country was starting research, training and plant safety programmes for Indian scientists and engineers.
"For instance, by participating in the construction of the Jaitapur plant (in Maharasthra), the French firm Areva is becoming a key partner in India's nuclear energy sector," Sarkozy said.
Sarkozy also declared that in the next phase of cooperation, six Indo-French European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) plants will provide 10,000 MW of non-polluting energy to the economy to the maximum benefit of manufacturing facilities.
Lauding India's decision to expand its nuclear industry over tenfold during the next two decades to meet growing demand for power from all sectors of the economy, the 55-year-old president said that about 80 percent (62,000MW) of electricity in France was generated from nuclear energy annually.
"We have decided to build two new European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) power plants, which are now favoured by India, as China and Finland did earlier," Sarkozy told the gathering, which included his glamorous wife Carla Bruni and a large French delegation accompanying him on his second visit to India in three years.
Sarkozy also reiterated France's support for India's candidacy for a reformed UN Security Council. "It is unthinkable that 1.1 billion people are not represented in the UNSC. India deserves a permanent seat in the Security Council," Sarkozy said. He said Brazil, Germany, Japan and the Arab world and Africa should also be represented in the Security Council.
Sarkozy also touched on the terror threat to India, the situation in Afghanistan, the global financial crisis and India's role in solving these issues.
"France stands in total solidarity with India. If India is attacked, democracy is attacked. Terrorism and insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan are a major source of threat to world peace and stability. We cannot afford see Taliban succeed in Afghanistan," he said.
The Sarkozys left for Agra after wrapping up a four-hour visit to Bangalore.
Sarkozy touches down in Delhi Sunday evening and will have dinner with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his official residence before the two leaders sit down for talks Monday morning.
In an interview, Sarkozy said he will take up France's concerns with India's nuclear liability bill which is seen by foreign suppliers as onerous.
"We would like India to adopt rules and procedures that are consistent with international practice, as enshrined in the Vienna Convention," Sarkozy told the Times of India in an interview.
The two sides are likely to sign some agreements related to space, technology, nuclear cooperation and culture after the talks.
Pak, Afghansitan hub of terrorism
He observed that terrorism emanating from Pakistan and Afghanistan is a "major source of instability" in the world.
Talking about Afghanistan, he praised India's role and said the world cannot afford to lose the war against Taliban.
"We cannot afford to allow Taliban to comeback. No one stand benefited if civil war raises its ugly head...we must succeed," he said.
Noting that one cannot stand still if India wants to move ahead in 21st century, he said, "India, Brazil, Germany, Japan, some representatives of Africa and Arab world must be in UN Security Council."
Sarkozy praises Manmohan Singh
Sarkozy showered praise on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying the Indian leader was obsessed with peace through development and eradication of poverty.
"I have great admiration for Prime Minister Singh. I value his friendship. He is right in believing in peace and stability. India's challenge is that if you succeed through peace, it will have a huge knock-out effect on the world," he said.
India and France are united by common values and believe that international relations should not be governed by brutality or force and it should be based on dialogue and rule of law, Sarkozy said adding the relationship between the two countries should go much further.
Appreciating India's growth, he said its voice has to be heard in the global level. "We need India to regulate the world monetary order. I believe Indian currency will be counted as one of major currencies," he said.
On education sector, Sarkozy said he expected a three-fold growth in the number of Indian students going to France. "We want to train young Indians in our universities and open our research facilities for them. I very much hope that the reverse will also be true," he said.
With IANS & PTI Inputs
First Published: Sunday, December 05, 2010, 00:58