France will follow US N-lead
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French President Jacques Chirac's visit to the country has "significantly boosted" India's chances to acquire long-denied nuclear technology, and India and France are "close to concluding a bilateral agreement" to cooperate in developing nuclear energy "for peaceful purposes", say sources.
But the import of nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel will depend on the successful conclusion of the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement. Only after it is done can France, a key member of the 44-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), begin to actually transfer nuclear technology to India.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the international community that India would adhere to safeguards on all civilian nuclear facilities pro-cured in the future through international cooperation.
"I confirm that all facilities procured by India through international cooperation on civilian nuclear energy will of course be subjected to that (IAEA safeguards)," he said at a joint press conference with Chirac.
India was committed to honour the Indo-US joint statement on civil nuclear cooperation "in letter and spirit", the PM said shortly after India and France signed a declaration on ‘the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes'.
"India and France look forward to adjustment of international civil nuclear cooperation framework with respect to India and confirm their intention to work to that end so that the agreement can be implemented fully," the declaration said.
The July 18 Indo-US civil nuclear agreement calls for Washington to work with members of the NSG to amend international regulations as a one-time exception for India, which is not a signatory to the NPT.
"India and France will ensure that cooperation pursuant to the future agreement shall be exclusively for peaceful purposes and covered where applicable by appropriate safeguards agreements with the IAEA," the declaration said.
A joint statement said the declaration was "an important step forward in the realisation of the objective of the two countries to conclude a bilateral civil nuclear cooper action agreement" and in taking forward long-standing Indo-French cooperation in the sector.
The declaration was signed by the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Anil Kakodkar, who recently gave an interview expressing reservations about the US's 'shifting goalposts' vis-à-vis the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement.
Chirac has been among the key backers of India's requirements for nuclear energy. "We must resolutely move forward with India, a big, responsible country to reconcile the necessary changes in international rules governing civil nuclear technology transfers and rules of non-proliferation," Chirac said.
France fully understands India's needs (as the world's sixth largest energy consumer) and believes it should be able to produce energy to meet its requirements, he said.
The two countries also signed a comprehensive framework agreement on defence cooperation that will enhance the bilateral Strategic Partnership and pave the way for transfer of advanced armament technologies. France is only the third country— after Russia and the US — with which India has signed such an agreement.
Seven other agreements and MoUs in key sectors like space, commerce, education, tourism, environment, culture and civil aviation were also signed.