India, France ink pact for 2 N-reactors, Mirage deal finalised

France signed a multi-billion dollar framework accord for building two advanced N-reactors in India.

Last Updated: Dec 07, 2010, 00:18 AM IST

New Delhi: France Monday signed a multi-billion dollar framework accord for building two advanced nuclear reactors in India as visiting President Nicolas Sarkozy endorsed New Delhi`s claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and joined hands to combat "safe havens" of terror in the region.

Giving a push to their defence cooperation, the two sides have also finalized $2.1 billion Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft upgradation deal, but the deal will have to await a few weeks to be signed.

The two sides signed five nuclear-related pacts, including an early works agreement and a general framework agreement between French nuclear giant Areva and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) for building two third-generation advanced European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs).

The deal for two reactors, to be set up at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, is valued at $9.3 billion.

"In the field of nuclear energy, negotiations have reached an advanced stage to pave the way for the launching of nuclear power reactors in Jaitapur in partnership with Indian industry," Manmohan Singh said at a joint press conference with Sarkozy.

"Several other agreements to expand interaction in the nuclear sector to areas such as research and training of scientists and students, nuclear safety, nuclear waste management and regulatory practices have been concluded," he said.

Manmohan Singh, however, made it clear that issues related to the pricing of power and other technical matters were yet to be settled.

Sarkozy said that France would eventually build six nuclear reactors in India and backed India`s full membership in elite multilateral nuclear clubs, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group, and Wassenaar Arrangement

The pacts were signed after Manmohan Singh and Sarkozy held talks for nearly 90 minutes that focused on expanding bilateral civil nuclear cooperation and forging closer links in the field of defence, space, education and research.

The two leaders also discussed a host of global issues, including the UN reforms, global terrorism, reforms of international financial institutions, the G20 forum of major and emerging economies and climate change. The two sides also sought to nearly double bilateral trade to 12 billion euros by 2012.

Besides five atomic pacts, the two sides also signed a pact for co-production of films and another agreement for space cooperation in the field of earth science and climate.

France`s long-term plan to build six reactors in India for producing 10,000 mw electricity over the next few years formed the centrepiece of Sarkozy`s four-day presidential visit to India that started Saturday.

Sarkozy is understood to have voiced concerns over some aspects of the civil nuclear liability law. The prime minister is understood to have allayed his concerns, but some issues relating to suppliers` liability are yet to be resolved.

"Following India`s enactment of a civil nuclear liability legislation, both countries stand ready to further exchange views on this issue so as to ensure the appropriate framework for the sound development of their cooperation," said the joint statement entitled""India-France: Partnership for the future""

Barely a month after US President Barack Obama declared support for India`s candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, Sarkozy reiterated France`s support, saying New Delhi`s inclusion on the UN high table was important for global balance.

"It is not just an important matter for India but for the equilibrium of the world," Sarkozy said. He reiterated that it was unfair that a country of one billion should be kept out of the UN high table.""India`s claim should be rightly as permanent member"" said Sarkozy.

In yet another important development, the two sides have finalised a $2.1 billion deal for upgrading 50 fighter jets, which has been bogged down in negotiations over the price. The deal has been finalized, Sarkozy said.""France is 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 own defence industry," said Manmohan Singh.

In a boost to India`s battle against terrorism launched from Pakistani territory, France supported India`s concerns "at the continuing existence of safe havens and sanctuaries for terrorist groups beyond Afghanistan`s borders and resurgence of terrorist groups."

"Our cooperation on counter-terrorism is without limits," said Sarkozy at the joint press conference.

"Pakistan must live in peace alongside its Indian neighbours. We call upon Pakistan to fight terrorism and we have the same understanding of events in Afghanistan and applaud India`s commitment to help develop a prosperous Afghanistan," said Sarkozy.

Sarkozy is expected to reiterate this message when he visits the Taj Mahal Hotel and Tower and the Oberoi Trident, two key targets during Nov 26, 2008 terror spree, in Mumbai Tuesday, the last day of his three-day visit to India, his second since becoming president.

IANS