France, a key player in the P5+1talks with Iran on its contentious nuclear programme, asked India today to "convince" its "close friend" Tehran to enter into serious negotiations and respect international obligations with regard to nuclear non-proliferation.
French President Francois Hollande also extended an olive branch to Iran during a public lecture in New Delhi, saying the people of France also consider them as "friends" and urged the oil- rich nation to fulfil its obligations.
Calling India a "power of peace", Hollande strongly pitched for the country getting a full-fledged membership at the United Nations Security Council while observing that the security of the world needs India's presence.
Delivering the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture to a distinguished audience at the Nehru Memorial Library in the national Capital, he lavished praise on Indian democracy, its secularism and its "most popular" cinema which is celebrating its 100th year.
In his 25-minute speech during which he spoke at length about international and domestic issues, the French President asked India to use its friendship and influence with Iran to bring it to negotiating table on its controversial nuclear programme.
"We know India and its people are close to Iran and North Korea. It is all the more important that India convinces this great country of Iran to enter into a serious negotiations to respect international obligations and nuclear non- proliferation," he told the audience.
Observing that India is concerned about the future of Afghanistan after 2014 when NATO forces would leave, Hollande said Afghans themselves should decide about their future and in this context asked Pakistan to fulfil its commitment to accomplish the objective. Lauding India's role in international fora, Hollande spoke good of New Delhi's policy of resolving all its disputes through peaceful means and not responding to "provocative actions" thereby avoiding conflicts.
"Today we ask for India to be a full-fledged member of the United Nations Security Council to reflect the current realities. We ask because 17% of humanity is here. We ask because the security of the world needs India's presence and we ask because India is a power of peace," he said to a rousing reception from the audience.
Thanking India for its "understanding and support" in France's fight against terrorism in Mali, the French President said the two countries will continue to cooperate and collaborate in eradicating the menace of terrorism that has its roots in poverty.
"India and France began their strategic partnership in 1998 but I would like to call it an exceptional partnership. We have had the most sensitive and crucial fight against terrorism and we have more challenges," he said.
Hollande also assured India that France would do its bit in strengthening security along the Indian Ocean and would help the Indian mission in its role in the security of the region.
Talking about Indian cinema, he lauded the industry as one of the biggest producers of cinema in the world and said France is "really honoured" to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema at Cannes this year.
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the French President said the French Revolution had shown the way to the countries which fought for independence and said words like independent and justice no longer belong to his country alone.
Lamenting that only 3,000 of the 17 million students in India come to France for higher studies, he pitched the need to bridge the gap and ensure that more students from India travel to his country for studies.