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State visit to India

Published on December 6, 2010
Interview given by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, to the Indian newspaper “The Times of India”¹

Paris, December 4, 2010


Q. – What is the status of the nuclear agreement between Areva and NPCIL for the first French nuclear reactors in Maharashtra? Do you expect to sign this agreement when you are here? If not, what is keeping you from signing the agreement?

THE PRESIDENT – The ongoing discussions between Areva and NPCIL concern the construction of the first two of a series of six EPRs. More precisely, there are actually two draft agreements: one on the preparations for building the reactors; the other on delivering the reactors and the fuel.

France, as you know, was the first to champion India’s cause around the world on the issue of civil nuclear power. We were the first to call for an end to the isolation in which India had found herself since 1998 and for her to be allowed to cooperate with other partners in this field. We did this because India has always behaved impeccably on non-proliferation issues and because India needs civil nuclear energy – which is a clean energy – in order to develop.

France was also the first country to sign a cooperation agreement with India on civil nuclear energy, during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Paris in September 2008. The discussions between Areva and NPCIL are now translating the historic partnership launched at that time into industrial reality.

You ask me whether we will be able to formally sign the agreement between Areva and NPCIL during my visit. What I can tell you is that discussions are continuing and that we are doing all we can to achieve this goal.

Q. – Are you concerned – as the Americans are – about the nuclear liability law recently passed by India? Have you discussed those concerns with your counterparts here and are you satisfied with the Indian response? Will the nuclear liability law delay or prevent the commercial agreement on nuclear reactors?

THE PRESIDENT – It is perfectly understandable – and even to their credit – that the Indian authorities should seek to ensure the highest levels of protection for victims. This must be done in a way that complies with the principle of legal certainty and, not least, that can facilitate the development of India’s civil nuclear programme by establishing hard and fast rules that are consistent with international principles for the Indian and foreign companies operating in the sector.

All we are saying is that we would like India to adopt rules and procedures that are consistent with international practice in this area, as enshrined in the Vienna Convention.

I will of course discuss this matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; we are able to consult each other on all issues in an atmosphere of great trust. He is a man of great wisdom, for whom I have the greatest esteem.


Q. – There has been some talk of increased naval cooperation between India and France? What kind of cooperation are you looking at, and what are the challenges you might face?

THE PRESIDENT – First of all I would like to point out that there has been considerable progress in naval cooperation between our two countries in recent years; our partnership on Scorpène conventional submarines is an example of this.

This unprecedented cooperation is a reflection of the relations between our two countries: it is ambitious, based on mutual trust and it is for the long term. Above all, it is no longer a supplier/customer relationship; it is a genuine partnership approach that aims to pool our skills and expertise in order to produce things together.

Construction is well under way and the hulls of the first two submarines have now been completed. Furthermore, the main subassemblies of the submarines were ordered this year, which means that they can be gradually fitted into the hulls. It is a big step and I know that DCNS and the Indian shipyard are fully committed to delivering the first submarine as soon as possible.

Turning to naval matters, I would also like to point out that the French Navy and the Indian Navy are getting to know each other increasingly well, thanks to their remarkably effective joint exercises. A new exercise of this type is planned for early next year.

Q. – We see big French companies in India and we also see a great deal of cooperation between your government and ours. We have great admiration for French literature, cuisine and films. But we still don’t see the civil society interaction that is the sustaining force for such a partnership. How do you plan to increase ties between the two peoples?

THE PRESIDENT – It is wrong to say that there is no interaction between our civil societies. Ties have in fact strengthened considerably in recent years. Look at academic exchanges, to take just one example: they have increased by 25% a year over the last four years.
But I do agree with you that these exchanges do not yet reflect the full measure of the friendship and – as you say – the admiration that exist between our two peoples. We can do more and we must do more.
That is why in 2008 Prime Minister Singh and I decided to make the development of human exchanges a genuine priority of Franco-Indian relations. For example, we set a goal of trebling the number of young Indians studying in France over the next three years. Indian students are welcome in France and I hope that they will come and study with us in increasing numbers.

If we are to strengthen the human ties between our two countries we will need to improve the climate for professional mobility. We must make it easier for business people, research workers and teachers to travel between our two countries. We have started to think about this and, although we are only in the early stages, it is a crucial area.
A word about our cooperation in the field of science: I chose to start my visit in Bangalore, which is perhaps the Indian capital of new technologies and the space industry, in order to pay tribute to this modern India, spearheading progress, this India of the 21st century; but it will also give me the opportunity to celebrate the excellence of the scientific partnership between France and India. I will be visiting ISRO, where two Franco-Indian satellites are being built, in cooperation with the CNES, to study climatic phenomena and the oceans. My visit will also see the creation of a new technology institute in Rajasthan, with which France will be involved by sending faculty members, students and experts and by setting up joint laboratories. These are just a few examples of the immense scientific cooperation that exists between our two countries and which we will continue to develop.

Human exchange also means culture. An important part of the deep friendship and attraction between our two peoples comes from a genuine fascination for the culture of the other. As with French culture, Indian culture extends far beyond the borders of our countries. In India and in France we believe that diversity is an asset that should be preserved and nourished. This is why we are so committed to cultural creation, because a culture that no longer creates is a dead culture.
Cinema is a perfect example. Both our countries have managed to maintain their remarkably rich and vital film industries. But now we have decided to go further and build a bridge between the two. My visit will thus provide the opportunity for us to sign a co-production agreement to promote French and Indian cross-holdings in the productions of both countries.


Q. – I’d like to talk to you about Iran. France has taken a hardline approach to Iran’s nuclear ambitions compared to most other countries. What kind of conversations will you have with Dr Manmohan Singh on the subject? What do you expect India to do?

THE PRESIDENT – India is now a major power. On the issue of Iran, as on all major international issues, her vote counts. Her involvement can make a real difference.

The Iranian crisis is undoubtedly one of the most serious threats to international security today. France has always been very clear about her position: the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is simply unacceptable. But we also say equally clearly that Iran, like every other country in the world, is entitled to have civilian nuclear power, in compliance with international rules.

On several occasions, including very recently, the international community has put highly ambitious cooperation proposals to Iran, including in the field of civilian nuclear energy, provided she complies with her international obligations and abandons her illegal proliferation activities. Iran has rejected them all.

Instead, she has continued to step up the provocation: missile launches, increasing her enrichment levels, various threats, etc. And I would remind you that just over a year ago, the intelligence services discovered a new secret nuclear site.

Faced with these provocations, the Security Council of the United Nations decided last June to adopt a new Sanctions Resolution, the fourth since the start of the Iranian crisis.

France, it is true, has been a driving force in adopting this resolution; not to punish Iran but to make clear to the Iranian leaders that their strategy will lead straight to failure. For us it is not a question of sanctions or dialogue: it is a question of sanctions to bring the Iranians to the negotiating table.

India can help us to convince the Iranians that they are wrong, that their choices are leading their country into a dead-end and that the Iranian people aspire to something more than the isolation to which their leaders condemn them. India’s role will be even more crucial from next January because – I am pleased to say – your country will have a seat on the UN Security Council for two years. On this matter, as on all matters for which the Security Council is responsible, I hope that we will be able to work together closely.

As you know, Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union, will meet the Iranian negotiator together with the Six on Monday and Tuesday in Geneva. We have been waiting for a signal of goodwill for a year. This time the Iranians must commit sincerely to the discussions and opt for cooperation. This crisis has lasted too long.


Q. – France will host the next G20 summit. What are your priorities? What do you think of the “currency war” that allegedly threatens to see China and Germany on one side and the United States, together with other deficit countries, on the other? What do you think the solution might be?

THE PRESIDENT – The French presidency’s first task will be to continue and further the work begun two years ago to regulate international finance. Moralizing financial capitalism is a priority for us. The historic progress we have made over the past two years will continue and we will work even harder on all aspects of this reform agenda.

But if the G20 is to be legitimate, if it wants to live up to its responsibilities, then it cannot simply be a “Management G20”, content with seeing on-going projects to completion. It must have a new ambition, get to grips with the new issues and stay ahead of the new challenges. If the G20 wants to be worthy of the hopes our peoples have placed in it, it must be the forum for preparing the new world of the 21st century.

We live in a rapidly changing world, a world undergoing profound changes. In this new world, we need new ideas. It is up to us to find these ideas together. If we don’t, nobody will do it for us.

It is in this spirit that France has asked her G20 partners to launch new priority areas that are vital to world stability.

The first is the reform of the International Monetary System. You asked me about the possibility of a “currency war”, which many commentators currently fear. But remember that when I first spoke about how the international monetary system operates almost a year ago, my remarks were greeted with scepticism and caution, to say the least. Today, everyone recognizes not just that the issue was legitimate, but that it was inevitable. Most of all, everyone agrees that the method proposed by France is the right one. It involves avoiding mutual accusations and insults, because they solve nothing, and launching together an in-depth debate on a comprehensive reform of the IMS.

The second priority area of the French presidency is combating the volatility of commodity prices. Once again, this is an extremely difficult issue but one we can no longer avoid if we don’t want the world to see hunger riots again and if we don’t want to continue to put up with steep fluctuations in commodity prices – whether they be oil, gas, or agricultural commodities – which have dramatic consequences for the global economy.

The third priority is reforming global governance, which is long overdue. The World Bank and the IMF are already working on it, but we must go further. I refer of course to UN reform, including reform of the Security Council, which has been blocked for almost 20 years. Together with our British friends we have proposed an interim reform, because we are convinced that this offers the best – and probably the only – way to finally overcome the current stalemate. Please rest assured that France will continue to fight, as she was the first to do, for India finally to get her rightful place on the Security Council, that of permanent member, and in all agencies of global governance.

Finally, France has long argued that the G20 should get to grips with development issues, because we believe that the emerging countries have a key role to play in this area and because there can be no strong, sustainable global growth unless the economies of the poorest countries take off. I particularly want us to work on the issue of innovative financing. This is a crucial issue because it determines our collective ability to meet our commitments on climate change and the Millennium Development Goals.

As you can see, the priorities of the French presidency are particularly ambitious. France intends to tackle them with great determination and realism. We are fully aware that these projects are too vast to be completed in a single year.

The French presidency will be an open, inclusive, collective presidency that will involve all its partners closely, starting with India. I will hold in-depth discussions with Prime Minister Singh on all these issues, which I know to be of particular concern to India. I am counting on India to play her full role during the French presidency, where I would like her to be a key player.

Source of English text: “The Times of India”.

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