Paris, Sep 30: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh received a
red carpet welcome here on Monday, Sep 30 evening, hours after
participating in a significant Ninth India-European Summit in the
port town of Marseilles. He was received by French Immigration,
Integration and National Identity Minister Brice Hortefeux.
The final leg of Singh''s 10-day visit to the United States and France will see him holding talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy today on various issues of mutual importance to the two countries.
Singh is expected to consolidate ties in the areas of trade and investment, defense, space, civil nuclear cooperation and high technology. France''s state-controlled Areva SA is hoping to sign a contract to supply two nuclear reactors to India, a company spokeswoman said on Monday.
Singh had arrived in France on Sunday to participate in the India-European Union Summit. The India-EU talks covered issues ranging from climate change to security. Singh said yesterday that they had agreed to add new areas of cooperation, including solar energy and civilian nuclear research.
Trade between India and the 27-nation EU has more than doubled from 25.6 billion euros (36.7 billion dollars) in 2000 to 55.6 billion euros (66.7 billion dollars) last year, and both sides see the possibility of further expansion in this sector.
But the primary focus of Singh''s visit to Paris this time will be civil nuclear cooperation in the wake of India getting clearance to conduct nuclear trade with the rest of the world by both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.
The Joint Action Plan initialed by India and the EU envisages cooperation in civil nuclear research and development in a manner consistent with their international obligations, and to enhance co-operation within the framework of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Agreement and through the conclusion of a bilateral agreement between Euratom and India in the field of fusion energy research.
It also envisages collaborative research and capacity building in new fields of science and technology, which will be determined by the Steering Committee of the EC-India Science and Technology Agreement, besides strengthening dialogue between the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Department of Space (DOS), the European Space Agency (ESA), and the European Commission.
As Dr. Singh said at a joint press conference with Sarkozy in Marseilles on Monday: "Sometime ago, the Nuclear Suppliers Group adjusted its guidelines in the matter of civil nuclear cooperation with India. We look forward to working with France and other countries in this area. We are having a summit tomorrow. I hope some results will come out of this summit."
On his part, Sarkozy has said that civil nuclear energy should be seen as the cleanest form of energy in a world that was bedeviled by global warming and other environmental problems.
He confirmed that on Tuesday he would be talking to Singh on the issue of nuclear cooperation, and thereafter, both governments would take a decision.
India and France had initialed the Framework Agreement for Civil Nuclear Cooperation in January but could not sign it pending a waiver from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Sarkozy is already on record as saying that the India-International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards Agreement and the NSG waiver for India are ''historic landmarks."