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French President Sarkozy in India: Cooperation as Prime Agenda

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By Nitum Jain:

President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French First Lady, Carla Bruni, arrived in India on Saturday, the 4th of December, for a four-day long visit with the aim of furthering cooperation in nuclear power, defence, sustainable development, education and culture. Accompanied by a large official-cum-business delegation (comprising his defence, foreign and finance ministers and nearly 60 CEOs of French companies), he landed at the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) airport to commence his second trip to the country in three years.

The first day in his itinerary cited a visit to the satellite centre of the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO); here, in his official address to 500 invitees, comprising top scientists, captains of industry and students, President Sarkozy had a lot to say.

He talked about education and how he feels India’s youth are eager to seek higher education and innumerable young Indians are studying abroad, mostly in English-speaking countries.

I would like to reiterate France’s wish to expand ties with Indian universities, we are providing special support to the Indian Institute of Technology Rajasthan, in Jodhpur. France also wants to host more Indian students. It can educate and train young Indians in cutting-edge research” the French president said.

We have also established a specific system to accommodate foreign students in France. I hope that by 2012 we will have tripled the number of Indian students in France, compared with 2007” Sarkozy added.

Next on his agenda was Space.

Praising the successful efforts of the Indian space agency in utilising space resources for the benefit of its people, the French president talked about how the French countepart, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and ISRO would soon be working on a new research programme together.

We will build and launch the Mega-Tropiques and SARAL (Satellites for Argos and Altika), remote sensing satellites for climate and ocean observation in 2011. We will launch Indian satellites from Kourou (in French Guyana) and European satellites from India” Sarkozy said, this receiving a hearty applause from the audience.

However, he added that the potential for cooperation between the countries was not limited to the space industry, there were also the joint laboratories set up for biotechnology, nanotechnology, water, medicine, environmental protection and food security and an increasing number of French companies (such as Capgemini, Altran and Dexia) were finding base in Bangalore, the global IT services hub.

Then finally coming to the crux of his visit to India: Nuclear cooperation.

About 80 percent (62,000mw) of electricity in France is generated from nuclear energy annually and so nuclear technology is obviously a specialty and a matter of great interest to the French. The head of this nation started the topic by declaring support for New Delhi’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and emphasised on the importance of nuclear energy in the country

Supporting India’s candidacy to join the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), He said it made sense for the country to participate in the work of multilateral bodies responsible for drafting and ensuring compliance with the non-proliferation regime. And not only India, he further stated, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Africa and Arab world should be in the UN Security Council as well.

France was first to say in 1998 that it was time to put an end to India’s nuclear isolation, as it was absurd to prevent such a country from developing its civilian nuclear sector. France, the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom have already signed agreements with India. Others will also soon join them. That’s why it makes sense for India to now participate fully in the work of the multilateral bodies responsible for drafting and ensuring compliance with the non-proliferation regime, starting with the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. France supports India’s candidacy to join these groups.” he said.

Sarkozy also went on to declare that in the next phase of cooperation, the six Indo-French European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) plants will provide 10,000 MW of pollution-free energy to the economy to the maximum benefit of manufacturing facilities.

His visit and address at the ISRO satellite centre received much approval and some speculation and there are three more days to go; the president plans to pay the customary visit to the Taj Mahal with his wife and then is scheduled to have lunch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. Unlike Obama’s visit, which gathered much publicity (both good and bad), President Sarkozy seems to sail through his smoothly.

Presidential visits to India are on the rise; we first saw President Obama of USA, Now President Sarkozy of France and now we await the leaders of Russia and China by the year’s end. It almost seems that everyone wants a piece of the rising economy that is India.

The writer is the Sub-Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz and holds special interest in Public Administration.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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