India-France relations set to move into high gear

Claude Arpi I IANS
Publication Date: 
Sat, 2008-09-27 03:00

PARIS: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will reach Paris today after his visit to the United Nations and his encounter with President Bush in Washington to possibly ink a much-awaited agreement for civil nuclear cooperation with France.

Though Indo-French relations have never had the high profile character of the Indo-US, this agreement will mark the culmination of 10 years of a successful strategic partnership.

In January 1998, before reaching New Delhi, then French President Jacques Chirac had declared that he was keen on an “ambitious partnership” with India. Using a de Gaulle-like language, Chirac saluted India, “a nation which has affirmed its personality on the world stage”.

Later inaugurating a seminar in Vigyan Bhavan, Chirac had mentioned a nuclear deal. Noting that “certain conditions are to be met,” his suggestion had been to “reflect, together with those of our partners involved, on the ways to reconcile our common will to cooperate and the necessary respect for the rules the international community has set itself.”

He added that he had come to show that “France wanted to accompany India in its potent march toward the future.”

In January 2008, similar language was used by President Nicholas Sarkozy when he visited New Delhi and initialed the nuclear deal that is expected to be signed on Sep 30.

In 1998, Chirac’s words were not mere political niceties. When India conducted its nuclear tests in Pokhran in May, France was one of the few countries which did not condemn New Delhi or impose sanctions.

This was greatly appreciated in India and when then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee returned Chirac’s visit in October 1998, the new strategic dialogue could take its first concrete steps.

Today, Ranjan Mathai, the Indian ambassador in Paris, is satisfied. “Indeed it is a partnership which has grown in strength and maturity. We are moving into concrete steps in all strategic fields,” he said.

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