French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s visit to India had more substance than glamour, unlike US President Barack Obama’s a month ago. This is primarily because France has been more liberal and less fastidious when it comes to sharing technology and addressing India’s concerns. The seven Memorandums of Understanding India and France signed during the visit are a pointer to the kind of scientific and technological partnership they intend to forge. It may not have been a mere lexical coincidence that the words “limitless” and “partner” found repetitive use in Sarkozy’s speeches and remarks. If anything, this showed how much France valued its “partnership” with India, whose freedom fighters had drawn inspiration from the French ideals of equality, liberty and fraternity.
In terms of sheer commercial value of the MoUs signed, it will put in the shade what Obama managed to get for the American business community. Though no military contracts were signed, France has its eyes clearly set on the $80 billion or so that India is expected to spend in the next 10 years to modernize its military. The most significant achievement of the visit was the general framework agreement signed between French nuclear major Areva and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. France is, undoubtedly, the world leader in nuclear energy and the government-owned Areva is one of its leading nuclear power companies. Under the agreement, Areva will build two European pressurized reactors of 1650 megawatts each at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, valued at about $9.30 billion.
Though the project has received environmental clearance, questions remain whether Areva has the competence to set up the plant, which is unlike any other in the world. It was, perhaps, this concern that Manmohan Singh expressed when he said, “There are issues with regard to technical matters, including pricing.” The onus of ensuring that the Jaitapur plant is not only technologically feasible but also free from fears of all kinds rests squarely on the shoulders of Indian nuclear experts. In this context, India’s nuclear liability bill can help the scientists to seek clarifications from Areva and, thereby, address concerns of safety. These are just two of the 20 nuclear power plants India plans to set up to meet its burgeoning power needs. Sarkozy’s support to India’s claim to a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and its endeavor to have all those who masterminded 26/11 brought to justice will go a long way in strengthening India’s relations with France in all spheres of life.
Courtesy: Express Buzz