India secures approval from Britain, France said to be next

22 January 2008

UK prime minister Gordon Brown has said he supports the US-India deal and that he would work with his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, to agree a civil nuclear cooperation deal.

A joint statement said: "The UK supports the India-US nuclear cooperation initiative with all its elements, including an appropriate India-specific exemption to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines."

The prime ministers met during Brown's tour of India, during which UK firms are to sign some GBP10 billion ($19 billion) in contracts.

 

The joint statement said that the two countries would "work expeditiously" towards a bilateral agreement on civil nuclear energy.

 

According to a report in The Hindu, France has already negotiated a civil nuclear cooperation deal with India which is being kept under wraps until specific IAEA safeguards are agreed for Indian nuclear sites. The report said both agreements could be concluded at the end of this month during a visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. It remains unclear whether Sarkozy's girlfriend, supermodel Carla Bruni, will attend.

 

Singh would now be able to count on French and British support at the NSG in addition to that of the Americans, Russians and Chinese. German chancellor Angela Merkel said last year that she envisaged her country could do much nuclear trade with India if trade agreements could be made.

 

Presently nuclear trade is restricted by the 45-member NSG, which issues strict guidelines for doing business. One rule is that countries that have not signed the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea) are off limits. The initiative to change the rules for India was started in 2005 by President George Bush, but the cooperation agreement he agreed with Singh is currently stalled in the Indian parliamentary system.

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