India, France try to finalise civil nuke pact

Sarkozy begins a four-day working visit to India from IT city Bangalore on Saturday. He will be accompanied by his wife Carla Bruni and seven senior ministers.

New Delhi: Ahead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy`s visit here, India and France are finalising a framework agreement for civil nuclear cooperation. Paris has conveyed that New Delhi`s civil liability rules should be in conformity with international standards, according to sources.

France is understood to have conveyed that India must ensure the legal security of French suppliers of nuclear equipment and its civil liability law should be in conformity with international standards.

Sarkozy is expected to put across this message when he holds wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday, sources said, adding discussions on a framework civil nuclear cooperation agreement are going on.

If discussions are wrapped up by then, the framework agreement between the French nuclear giant Areva and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) for building two European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) could be signed during Sarkozy`s visit, sources said.

The framework agreement is expected to lay down broad rules for Areva initially building two nuclear reactors, which will eventually increase to six in number.

France became the first country to sign a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation pact with India on September 30, 2008, after the Nuclear Suppliers Group granted New Delhi a one-time exemption to resume global nuclear trade.

"The agreement between Areva and NPCIL is likely to be a commercial kind of agreement," said TP Seetharam, joint secretary (Europe-West) in the External Affairs Ministry, here on Wednesday.

"But in addition, for all this to be facilitated, it may be necessary to have some government-to-government agreements for such arrangements, such as the confidentiality agreement and intellectual property rights, etc., which are also being looked at," said Seetharam.

Areva, which plans to set up two atomic power plants of 1,650 MW capacity each at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, has made it clear that it is awaiting notification of implementing rules of the nuclear liability law to know the extent of the compensation it will have to pay in case of an atomic accident in the facilities it sets up.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Law passed by parliament recently caps the liability in case of a nuclear accident at Rs.1,500 crore (approx. USD 320 million).

Sarkozy begins a four-day working visit to India from IT city Bangalore on Saturday. He will be accompanied by his wife Carla Bruni and seven senior ministers.

The focus of the visit will be on taking strategic and economic ties between two countries to new heights. Besides reviewing bilateral ties, Manmohan Singh and Sarkozy are expected to discuss a host of global issues like reform of the international financial institutions, the G20 forum of major and emerging economies, climate change and non-proliferation.

In Bangalore, Sarkozy will visit the Indian Space Research Organisation, where he would see the Indo-French project Megha-Tropiques Satellite being jointly developed by ISRO and CNES, the French counterpart of ISRO.

On Sunday, France`s first couple goes on a private visit to Agra and Fatehpur Sikri before flying to Delhi where Manmohan Singh will host a private dinner for the Sarkozys Sunday evening.

IANS

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