NEW DEHLI: France signed a $9.3 billion framework agreement to sell two nuclear reactors to India on Monday, during a trade-centred visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to New Delhi.
India inked the deal with France’s state-run nuclear group Areva for the purchase of two reactors for a new plant in Jaitapur in the western state of Maharashtra.
“Negotiations with Areva have reached an advanced stage to pave way for the launching of nuclear power reactors in Jaitapur in partnership with the Indian industry,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a joint press conference.
The deal is short of a final sale contract, but it means Areva has moved ahead of US and Japanese competitors in the race to sell reactors to India, which aims to tap atomic power for a quarter of its electricity demands by 2050.
Russia is already constructing two nuclear power units in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Deals worth $20 billion have been signed or are about to be signed with Indian companies, Sarkozy’s office said, including a leasing agreement for 14 Airbus planes and the modernisation of 51 French-made Mirage fighter jets.
The French leader is on a four-day trip to India, where he is seeking deeper trade ties while seeking to build a partnership with a democratic country seen as a counterbalance in Asia to China.
The nuclear group hopes to supply six reactors in total for the Maharashtra nuclear plant. The first two are worth seven billion euros, according to the French presidency.
Areva boss Anne Lauvergeon said that the construction of the reactors would begin next year, with the first electricity expected to be generated in 2018. The agreement “shows the willingness of France to propose a total partnership to India in the area of civil nuclear power”, Sarkozy told the press conference with Singh.
Sarkozy reiterated his support for India to have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council – a key foreign policy objective for New Delhi – and suggested it might simply upgrade its current temporary seat in 2012.
“It’s a question of balance in the world. We can’t exclude a billion individuals,” he said, referring to India’s population of 1.2 billion.
Sarkozy also pleased his hosts by calling on neighbouring Pakistan to combat extremists on its territory, who have often targeted India, and called for a stable Afghanistan.
Other agreements were inked, however, including one that will see closer cooperation in space – they are to jointly launch satellites to monitor the climate and oceans next year – and arts and culture.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2010.