Indo-French Nuclear Deal. Will It Happen?

sarkozy.jpgApart from sending the shutterbugs into a tizzy about whether or not his girlfriend would accompany him on his visit to the Taj, Nicholas Sarkozy’s visit to much-anticipated visit to India was, in fact, a step towards building strategic relations between the two countries. In what can be said as an extremely significant step forward towards boosting partnership with India, in their defence cooperation, the French President has left the hopes high after the discussion on the much awaited nuclear deal. The negotiations were finalized for reaching the agreement for civil nuclear cooperation .This was decided at a summit meeting between Sarkozy and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that was aimed at enhancing bilateral relations for nuclear cooperation in the backdrop of New Delhi’s rising economic clout.

When French President Nicholas Sarkozy was welcomed with a guard of honour and the strains of La Marseillaise at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, it was expected that his visit would advance further, the Indo-French strategic partnership launched in 1988 in the international maelstrom of condemnation of India’s nuclear tests.

The two nations, which pride themselves for their independent foreign policies, have always had a tender spot for each other, but a lack of strong-hold political direction on further plans had slowed down the momentum. The Indo-French nuclear co-operation is hence being looked at as an important means of establishing a long term strategic partnership.

While France had always been keen to start wide scale nuclear cooperation with India, it retains its stand that it will not be possible for Paris to enter into a deal with New Delhi without the latter successfully completing its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) to operationalise the Indo-US accord.

“France will be India’s advocate to the international community for its acquisition of civilian nuclear energy…India is considered a responsible nuclear power which is sticking to the IAEA guidelines. So France will be the advocate,” Sarkozy said. Sarkozy’s presidency is hardly a year into office and India seems to figure high on his foreign policy priority list.

The Prime Minister said India’s negotiations with the IAEA were moving forward and hoped that these would be concluded at the earliest. The Prime Minister said: “International discussions do take time… The discussions are moving forward. It is my sincere hope that discussions can be concluded without loss of further time.”

Both countries will consolidate their relationship in the field of defence by increasing the range, level and frequency of their military joint operations and cooperation. In this regard, it was agreed to strengthen their joint programmes and prospects in the defence industry, conduct joint research and facilitate transfer of technology in these vital areas.

Vatsala Tibrewala