Even as the Indo-US nuclear deal is making its passage in the US Congress, French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday made clear his country's intention to forge ahead with the civil nuclear cooperation with India which will be sealed in an agreement he is signing with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Paris on Tuesday.
France, the world's leading country in nuclear power which produces 80 per cent of electricity from atomic energy, is ready to offer its latest EPR technology to India under the agreement.
In an e-mail interview to PTI ahead of his talks with Singh, Sarkozy said the prospects of cooperation between France and India in the civil nuclear field are "very promising" considering his country's expertise, long tradition of cooperation with New Delhi and an atmosphere of trust.
"This visit holds a special meaning for me... We will launch our civil nuclear cooperation which will become a cornerstone of our partnership," the French President said while talking about the agenda of his bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister in Paris on Tuesday.
India and France initialed the Framework Agreement for Civil Nuclear Cooperation in January but could not sign it pending a waiver from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group. With the NSG giving its nod, the two leaders will sign the agreement during Singh's visit to Paris.
Prior to their bilateral talks, the two leaders will meet tomorrow in Marseille for India-EU Summit as France is the current chair of the 27-nation European body.
Describing the India-IAEA Safeguards Agreement and the NSG waiver for India as "historic landmarks", Sarkozy noted how France and particularly he had worked for ensuring exemption to India to conduct civil nuclear trade.
"France has been working towards this over the past ten years and I have personally been actively involved in building the consensus that has emerged at the IAEA and NSG," he said.
"I've done so because it's important for India's development, because it's important for the energy security of the world, the fight against global warming, and because these agreements and decisions strengthen the global non- proliferation regime," the French President underlined.
"Now the time has come for implementation and France wants to be a key partner of India in this respect," he said.
France is the world leader in nuclear energy, which provides us 40 cent of our energy needs and 80 per cent of its electricity in both competitive and eco-friendly conditions.
Sarkozy said that given the "potential of our two countries, France's expertise and know-how in this key area, the long tradition of cooperation and exchanges between our scientists and engineers, the atmosphere of trust between our respective countries, the prospects are very promising."
The agreement will open up a wide area of cooperation, particularly in the areas of research, training, safety and security.
"When it comes to power generation, the entry into force of our bilateral agreement, under the umbrella of the IAEA and NSG decisions, will open the possibility for Areva (French nuclear company) and its Indian counterparts to discuss the provision of the latest nuclear plant technologies, the EPR, to India, and to set up the necessary long-term cooperations for its smooth functioning," Sarkozy said.
Pointing out that the Indo-French Summit was taking place at a time of "great challenges for the world", he said the two sides will further enhance cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism and peace and security.
In this context, he said the two countries should continue to increase cooperation in all fields, such as judicial and police cooperation, exchange of informations, joint work in appropriate multilateral fora.
"We have to work alongside each other to rise to this challenge and defeat terror. That's why we shall hold in-depth discussions on this issue in Marseille and Paris," he said.
"We all face the scourge of terrorism, and I would like to express France's solidarity with India, which was recently so brutally hit. We can and must increase our cooperations for security," he said.
The French President said terrorism is "a scourge, a form of unacceptable barbarity that nothing can justify" as he noted the "heavy cost that India, like too many countries in the world, is paying in this respect."
In the field of defence, Sarkozy said as India is engaged in modernising its armed forces, France was ready to offer its best equipments and develop cooperations which can include technology transfers and industrial cooperations.
Describing the Indo-French defence relations as "excellent", he said "we cooperate closely. Our armed forces know and respect each other. We share common strategic concerns, we work together in the Indian Ocean, we develop joint actions in training, exercising, etc."
"Ongoing discussions in several key areas are promising," the French President added.
In the defence equipment field, he noted that France is an important partner of India, as demonstrated through Mirage 2000, helicopters, and the Scorpene submarine project which is being implemented.Imate change and food security would be high on agenda as they require joint action immediately.
"The financial crisis requires urgent joint action. I have made proposals in this respect that I will share with the Prime Minister," he said.
On climate change and food security, Sarkozy said "we need to act together in a spirit of shared responsibility."
At the Indwhich are already exceptionally strong at the commercial level, he said.
Regional issues of common interest, such as the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Burma are also expected to figure in the discussions.
"We shall discuss Euro-Indian cooperations in the areas of the future: research, new technologies, energy, higher and vocational education," the French President said while noting that "it's an ambitious agenda which tackles today's urgent issues as well as long-term answers that have to be elaborated jointly."