France-India nuclear cooperation deal

30 September 2008

Indian and French leaders have signed a nuclear cooperation deal the makes way for an enormous amount of trade between the two nations. Meanwhile, India's deal with the USA is at the final hurdle.


Singh-Sarkozy (Elysee) 
Singh is welcomed to Paris by 
Sarkozy yesterday (Image: Elysee)
Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh is in Paris this week for meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.


At a France-India summit, Sarkozy and Singh signed a number of agreements. One of them, announced without fanfare, was a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement "welcomed" by both sides. This "will form the basis of wide-ranging bilateral collaborations in energy and research" Sarkozy's office said.


Both leaders were accompanied by large trade delegations of executives from the nuclear business and beyond. Reports such as one in Indian daily Business Line that indicated up to six Areva EPR units could be built at the new Jaitapur site in Maharashtra - giving some 9600 MWe and more than doubling Indian nuclear capacity - illustrate the potential benefits of nuclear trade to both nations.


Meanwhile, India's agreement with the USA has reached what all involved will hope is its final hurdle. Congressmen in the House of Representatives approved the text of the 123 Agreement yesterday by 298 votes to 117 before passing it on to the Senate. The influential Senate Committee on Foreign Relations recently polled support for the deal, giving hope that it can be approved by the upper house before recess. While the recess is officially scheduled to start tomorrow, American lawmakers are busy trying to reach agreement on the bail-out of the failed banking sector so official timetables seem unimportant.


The deals are the culmination of a US-led initiative to end the trade ban on India that resulted from its refusal of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty. The development of a specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and specific rules at the Nuclear Suppliers Group have made it possible for India to complete a round of bilateral deals with countries around the world. In time, India will buy advanced nuclear reactors and services from other nations, and will also export its own nuclear goods and services.


American businessmen and politicians will be disappointed that their cooperation deal was not the first, but it is thought that Indian planners will reward the USA with the first round of contracts for advanced nuclear build.


EU-India climate pact


Separately, India has agreed to cooperate with the European Union on general matters of energy and climate change.


Yesterday in Paris a summit took place between Singh and Barroso where the EU and India, "reaffirmed their common will to tackle without delay the problem of climate change and deepen their cooperation in areas related to energy, clean development and climate change."


They agreed to use international mechanisms to achieve a post-2012 emissions regime and recalled "that the fight against climate change is closely linked to the fight against poverty, inequality and exclusion. They recognize that efforts to move towards a low carbon economy must go hand in hand with the development and improvement of living conditions of the poorest of the population."