France to back India as nuclear energy ally

12th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 12 (AFP) - France on Monday said it backed India's plans to develop nuclear energy after winning two multi-billion-euro contracts for the sale of Airbus aircraft and conventionally powered submarines.

PARIS, Sept 12 (AFP) - France on Monday said it backed India's plans to develop nuclear energy after winning two multi-billion-euro contracts for the sale of Airbus aircraft and conventionally powered submarines.


"France recognises the need for full international cooperation with India in the civilian nuclear field and will work towards that by collaborating with other countries and with the Nuclear Suppliers Group," French President Jacques Chirac and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said after meeting in Paris.


"France welcomes the firm commitment by India to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the measures it has taken and intends to take in that regard," they said in a joint statement, issued in French.


"In this context, the two countries are working to seal a bilateral cooperation agreement in the nuclear field."


The Nuclear Suppliers Group comprises 30 countries including Britain, France and the United States, which work together to direct the development of atomic energy in the world while enforcing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.


India, which is not party to the treaty and which tested nuclear weapons in 1998, has already won approval for its civilian nuclear energy programme from the United States and Britain.


France's inclusion strengthens India's claim to be a unique case among non-signatories to the non-proliferation treaty which should be provided assistance. France, which had welcomed the accord between Singh and US President George W Bush, is considered by New Delhi as a potential ally likely to lobby on its behalf with the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

In an interview published Monday in Le Figaro newspaper, Singh vowed that any outside help India gets with its nuclear energy ambitions would be kept entirely separate from its military nuclear programme, which resulted in nuclear bomb tests in 1998.

He sought to differentiate India from arch-rival Pakistan, which also tested A-bombs in 1998, by saying: "India is a democracy that functions well. Our political system offers sufficient guarantees to ensure that we keep our promises."

India, with its billion-plus population, imports 70 percent of its fuel requirements and with the price of oil hovering over US $60 a barrel is now looking urgently for alternative sources of energy, including nuclear.

But because it has not signed the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it is precluded from being assisted in buying civilian nuclear technology from members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

"We want to assist India in its reconciliation with the international community," said a French diplomatic source in Paris. "India itself says it is ready for this, which has changed our approach very much. The fact that it has announced this intention potentially opens the way to nuclear cooperation."

The submarine contract, which France has been lobbying hard to win, is worth EUR 2.4bn (three billion dollars) and will involve the Franco-Spanish made vessels being assembled in Mumbai as part of a technology transfer arrangement.

The 65m (213-foot) long diesel-electric submarines are designed for coastal defence, with sophisticated detection equipment, six torpedo tubes and missile launchers. They are able to stay at sea for up to 45 days with a crew of 31, and can dive to a depth of 300 metres.

India's order is the biggest so far outside of Europe. Chile and Malaysia have each already bought two apiece.

The Airbus deal had been announced recently by Singh and India's state-run Indian Airlines. That contract is worth EUR 1.8bn.

Chirac called the deals "a measure of the friendship, trust and cooperation" between their two countries.

Chirac said points covered in his meeting with Singh included India's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and its desire to develop its civilian nuclear energy sector.

Singh was the first foreign leader to see Chirac since the 72-year-old president was released from hospital last Friday after suffering what his doctors called a minor vascular problem that affected one of his eyes.

In the evening, Singh was to dine with French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. He will leave Tuesday for New York to attend a UN summit with other world leaders.

Singh told Le Figaro he was also counting on France to continue backing India in its bid to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

France is now India's seventh largest trading partner with a 30 percent rise in exports in 2004.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article