French President Nicolas Sarkozy backed India's bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council as India and France signed seven deals, most of them for setting up two nuclear plants.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Civil nuclear power was the major theme of the seven bilateral deals signed after delegation-level talks, which included a general framework and early works agreement between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and France's Areva for setting up two nuclear power plants at Jaitapur, Maharashtra.
At a joint press conference, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, "A framework agreement has been signed between Areva and our National Thermal Corporation. There are issues with regard to the other technical matters including prices. These are subject matters of negotiations."
In his response, Sarkozy said the agreements would be concluded quickly. "We will ensure and do our utmost to ensure that this is done as speedily as possible. This agreement also includes the price of energy for our Indian friends and we will respect usual processes and procedures in India. There are no hidden surprises."
Sarkozy delivers a speech at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
The two leaders, who have met several times in the last three years and enjoy a good rapport, also discussed a host of global issues including UN reforms, global terrorism, reforms of international financial institutions, the G20 forum of major and emerging economies and climate change.
Trying to sell new fighter aircraft
Although the much anticipated multi-billion-dollar pact to upgrade India’s Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft was not signed, Sarkozy made a strong pitch for the French firm Dassault which is in the running for India’s tender for 126 fighter aircraft — a deal estimated to be worth $12 billion. "I am thinking of the next generation of fighter planes and in particular the Rafale aircraft. France has made a strategic choice to believe in India's future and its institutions."
Nicolas Sarkozy outside the Taj Mahal in Agra on Saturday
Barely a month after US President Barack Obama declared his support for India's candidature for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, Sarkozy reiterated France's support, saying New Delhi’s inclusion at the UN high table was important for global balance.
"India today is not in its rightful place in world governance, which is why France is calling for reform of the Security Council which would include India to become a permanent member of the Security Council."
Romantic sunset visit to the Taj
Before delegation talks, Sarkozy fulfilled his long-cherished dream by visiting the Taj Mahal, the 17th century monument to love, with wife Carla Bruni, who could not accompany him on his last visit to India in 2008.
Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni during their visit to a Sufi shrine at Fatehpur Sikri
The French First Couple also visited the Sufi shrine of Sheikh Saleem Chishti at Fatehpuri Sikri, a little distance away. After being shown around the spiritual abode, the First Lady reportedly prayed for a son.
The French President heads to Mumbai on the last leg of his trip, where he will visit the memorial for policemen who died in the 26/11 terrorist attacks. French bravery awards will be given to the staff of the Taj and Oberoi hotels for saving lives during the attacks in 2008.
Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Arun Chowdhury