New Delhi: Amid mounting concerns here over safety, France Thursday assured India of following stringent standards at the two nuclear reactors it plans to set up in Jaitapur. The two countries also resolved to deepen their strategic ties in areas ranging from terrorism to global financial reforms.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna discussed a host of bilateral issues with his French counterpart Alain Juppe that included civil nuclear cooperation and expanded cooperation in defence and civilian space.
The two sides also decided to deepen their cooperation in combating piracy and counter-terrorism.
They discussed a cluster of regional and global issues, including the international financial crisis, terror emanating from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, the Syrian crisis, climate change and UN reforms.
They also decided to scale up their bilateral trade to 12 billion euros by 2012.
Buoyed by the successful launch of the joint space mission for weather observation, India and France eyed another milestone of a new satellite to study the sea surface altitude.
Civil nuclear cooperation figured prominently in the discussions.
Juppe told Krishna about stringent safety standards followed by French nuclear giant Areva which is in the middle of discussions with NPCIL for building two 1,650 MW reactors in Jaitapur in Maharashtra.
“We discussed the issue of nuclear energy….We shared the view that nuclear energy is a vital source of power provided we develop the highest levels of safety rules,” Juppe said at a joint press interaction with Krishna.
“And we are working on this issue at the international level with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and at national level.”
“France is determined to be completely open with its Indian partners on the safety measures taken…This framework it will be possible to develop our cooperation especially to finalise agreement on EPR (European Pressurised Reactors) project….,” Juppe said.
Krishna stressed the government was committed to Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project. “We are awaiting the completion of the French Review of Safety Aspects of EPR Design. Both sides are committed to ensuring the highest levels of safety in the project,” he said.
“India and France agreed to an early entry into force of the agreement on intellectual property rights on the development of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. They recognized the importance of the highest levels of safety for nuclear power plants,” said a joint statement after the talks.
France also took up the issue of the civil nuclear liability regime, which is seen as onerous by international nuclear companies. “Following India’s enactment of civil nuclear liability legislation, both countries stand ready to further exchange views on this issue so as to ensure the appropriate framework for the sound development of their cooperation,” the joint statement said.
The reiteration of commitment to nuclear cooperation came amid growing concerns in India over nuclear safety and protests against the Russia-built Kudankulam nuclear plant.
Reacting to a question on the souring of relations between Washington and Islamabad and its impact on the situation in Afghanistan, Juppe said it was imperative for the two countries to develop a dialogue for regional security. He also lauded India’s role in Afghanistan and said Paris will be in touch with New Delhi over developments in the AfPak region.
Hailing India as “a key strategic player in the international arena,” Juppe reiterated France’s support for India’s candidacy for a permanent seat in the Security Council and called for enhanced friendship and dialogue in the council and global fora.
Ahead of the G20 summit of emerging and developing countries his country will host early next month, Juppe said India will play a decisive role in the reforms of global financial institutions and stressed that Paris will strive for the stability of the eurozone that is reeling under a major debt crunch.