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Briefing by MEA Official Spokesperson on PM's meeting with French President Sarkozy

Washington, DC
April 13, 2010 

MEA Official Spokesperson (Shri Vishnu Prakash):
Good afternoon. I hope you have received the address of Prime Minister at the Nuclear Security Summit. You would have also seen this brief write-up by the Department of Atomic Energy outlining the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership that Prime Minister has offered to set up in India. You would have also seen the text of remarks by President Obama welcoming the initiative by Prime Minister of India. 

A bilateral meeting between Prime Minister and President Sarkozy has just concluded and I would like to share with you some salient details of the meeting. Today’s meeting, as in the past, was held in a very warm and friendly atmosphere given the convergence of views, convergence of interests between India and France. Prime Minister reiterated a warm invitation to President Sarkozy to visit India along with the First Lady. The visit is likely to take place in the last quarter of this year. 

Both sides expressed satisfaction and happiness at the relationship of strategic partnership which was forged in 1998 and over the last decade or so has moved from strength to strength. The canvass of our ties is broad and expanding steadily which is a matter of satisfaction for both Governments, both countries; and this has been happening under successive Governments in both the countries. 

President Sarkozy, many of you would recall, visited India in January 2008 within eight months of his assuming office when he was also the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations. The Prime Minister held the second summit in 2008 with France on the 30th of September at Paris. I would like to point out here that practically within three weeks of the decision taken by NSG and IAEA to lift restrictions on civil nuclear cooperation between India and NSG, which was in early September, the first IGA on civil nuclear cooperation was signed in Paris on the 30th of September 08 between India and France. 

Prime Minister again visited France in July last year when he was the Guest of Honour at the French National Day Celebrations. The two leaders have kept in regular touch, have regularly met on the sidelines of international conferences and fora. In 2009 they had at least four meetings - in April at London during the G20; in July at L’Aquila during the G8 plus 5 process; at Pittsburgh in September 2009 during the G20; and finally in November in Port of Spain during the Commonwealth Summit. That has been the manner in which the two countries and two leaders have been engaging each other. 

As I mentioned, our bilateral relations have been growing in strength and vitality in practically all fields. Within this framework of strategic partnership we are collaborating in vital areas like energy, space research, defence, industry and commerce, science and technology, education, culture, tourism, etc. Earlier this year on 14th January, Foreign Secretary and the Ambassador of France in New Delhi exchanged instruments of ratification of the Inter-Governmental Agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. India and France intend to develop multifaceted civil nuclear cooperation covering a wide array of areas including nuclear power projects, fuel supply, research and development, nuclear safety, education, training, etc. 

During the meeting today between the two leaders which lasted close to 50 minutes President Sarkozy reiterated French support for the permanent membership of India at UNSC. He remarked that India should get its rightful place in the international comity of nations. They had a very good discussion on regional issues of mutual interest including the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They particularly agreed to beef up the efforts of the international community on counter terrorism which touches everybody, affects everybody. 

The two leaders also had detailed discussions on G20, especially in the context of the upcoming French Presidency of EU. President Sarkozy shared his views with Prime Minister on the role of G20 in the post-economic recovery phase. He spoke of his desire to push towards a new world monetary order. The two leaders exchanged views on commodity price regulation. Prime Minister of India opined that the G20, in order to continue to remain relevant and enhance its relevance should formulate concrete steps to sustain the global economic recovery; and G20 should also decide what aspects it should maintain its focus on. He cautioned against complacency. These briefly are some of the important aspects that the two leaders touched upon. 

Question: Did the French President raise the question of the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill in India so that the India-France nuclear trade can begin? 

Official Spokesperson: I am not sure whether that was specifically raised, but what was mentioned was the satisfaction by both sides at the manner in which both sides are proceeding in operationalising the IGA. That is something which is of considerable interest to both countries. 

Question: As far as a permanent seat for India in the UN Security Council is concerned, has this issue ever come up among the discussions between India and the US officials or with President Obama? What is the position of the United States on this? 

Official Spokesperson: Our membership of the UN Security Council is a matter of very high priority for India. We are very clear that by any yardstick, by any measure, India is eminently qualified to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. The international architecture which was framed in 1945-46 needs democratisation. The ground realities have changed. We are actively pursuing that matter. We are closely working with our friends in the G4, and outside that framework with key players internationally, and with the international community to move forward on that matter so that India assumes its rightful place in the international comity or international organisations. 

Question: Would you just elaborate a little as to what actually formed the core of the discussion on Pakistan and Afghanistan. You mentioned that the President and the Prime Minister had a brief interaction on that. 

Official Spokesperson: I told you, and I can repeat it, basically they had an exchange of views on this. In the past also we have noted a similarity of viewpoint between our two countries on the issue of terrorism, on the issue of counter-terrorism, about how we view the situation in the region. It is in common interest to see peace and tranquillity return to the region. It is important to see that the international community stays the course in terms of helping to bring about stability in Afghanistan, security in Afghanistan, economic development in Afghanistan. That is how India sees the situation. And France, in our interaction we find, has a similar outlook. That is speaking in general terms. Specifically on Afghanistan and Pakistan I have already mentioned that in today’s meeting both sides spoke of the need for a concerted action on the part of international community to boost counter-terrorism efforts. 

Question: What was French President’s reaction to the Global Nuclear Centre which India is going to be setting up? 

Official Spokesperson: I do not have the specific reaction of the French President to that but my understanding is that this initiative of India has been warmly welcomed by the Summit. I have already mentioned the reaction of President Obama immediately after Prime Minister had made this offer. It would also find a reflection in the Joint Communique which will be released. As far as I know, it has been welcomed by the international community.