French president Nicholas Sarkozy began the official leg of his Indian visit on Sunday with a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lasting half-an-hour, followed by a private dinner.
Sarkozy is set to step up efforts to build on strategic ties between the two countries. Efforts will be focused on getting a greater stake in the economic pie that India can offer.
While cooperation in civil nuclear energy, space and defence sectors will see consolidation; education, research and economic ties between the two nations are expected to figure at the discussions between two leaders on Monday.
The Sarkozys were treated to a more private affair with the presence of senior Indian and French ministers. French foreign minister Michele Alliot-Marie, defence minister Alain Juppe and finance minister Christine Lagarde were present at the dinner. From the Indian side, it was Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, external affairs minister SM Krishna, defence minister AK Antony, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Leader of Opposition Sushma Sawaraj, among others.
Sarkozy spoke about taking civil nuclear cooperation to new heights, but voiced concerns of French nuclear giants such as Areva about some aspects of the civil nuclear liability law, sources said. The two leaders also shared views on issues such as reform of the international financial institutions, climate change and non-proliferation.
Sarkozy sought India’s support towards goals of the French presidency of the G20 grouping. Singh allayed concerns over India’s passage of a civil nuclear liability law. With this, there is a stronger possibility of a framework civil nuclear cooperation pact being signed between Areva and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, the sources said.