French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to India is expected to raise the decade-long bilateral strategic partnership between India and France to a higher plane.
Although they will not sign a deal, informed sources said India and France have agreed on a framework agreement for civil nuclear cooperation, ready to take effect as soon as India fulfils its obligations with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. A defence pact is also being readied for signing on Friday, when Sarkozy arrives.
France advocated a special status for India in the international nuclear regime as long back as 1998, when India conducted nuclear tests (Pokhran 2). Sarkozy, the second French President (after Jacques Chirac in 1998) in a decade to be chief guest at Republic Day celebrations, will ensure that the two countries take a “step further” in civil nuclear power cooperation during this visit, the sources said.
“If and when India comes to an agreement with the IAEA and the NSG opens the door for cooperation, its friends are ready to start cooperation in the field,” a source said.
Pushing for increased exchanges in the field of higher education, the French President will also announce his government’s decision to allow foreign students, including Indians, to work part-time while studying. The move is aimed at attracting more students and helping them fund their education more easily.
Iran, Pakistan and West Asia will figure high on the political agenda of the discussions the French President has with the Indian Prime Minister. France is part of the six-nation initiative to urge Iran to comply with international demands and give up its nuclear programme, the sources said.