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Giving a new impetus to strategic ties, India and France [Images] have finalised negotiations for a bilateral agreement on cooperation in civil nuclear energy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] announced on Friday.
The two sides also decided to bolster their defence cooperation and take it beyond a 'buyer-seller' relationship, Singh said at a joint press conference with French President Nicholas Sarkozy. During the talks, Sarkozy, who arrived in New Delhi on Friday on a two-day visit, reaffirmed France's support to India's bid for a permanent seat in the expanded United Nations Security Council.
Singh, who held extensive talks with Sarkozy on his maiden visit to India, said the two sides have agreed to strengthen cooperation to fight terrorism.
Describing his discussions with Sarkozy as very productive and wide-ranging, Singh said both the sides reaffirmed their strong mutual desire to further strengthen their strategic partnership. "This partnership is long standing and rests on shared values and similar approaches to regional and global issues." Singh said.
Singh said both sides agreed to further consolidate the multi-faceted cooperation in the fields of trade and investment, technology transfer, space, defence, culture and education. "The initiatives that we have taken reflect our mutual strength and the growing potential of our two countries to contribute to each others' development and national priorities," he said.
Contrary to media speculations, Sarkozy landed here without his girlfriend and former supermodel Carla Bruni [Images]. There was suspense on both sides on whether 40-year-old Bruni will accompany 52-year-old Sarkozy on his brief visit to the Taj Mahal [Images].
Singh said the two sides have agreed to intensify business-to-business contacts and establish an Indian Cultural Centre in Paris. He said Sarkozy indicated to him, during the talks, his intention to facilitate travel of large number of Indian students to France for higher studies.
"In the area of defence cooperation, we have agreed to go beyond a buyer-seller relationship. We will increasingly focus on joint research and development projects, transfer of technology and greater military exchanges," Singh said.
"We have finalised negotiations in regard to reaching a bilateral agreement on cooperation in the field of civil nuclear energy," he added.
Sarkozy said France favoured a waiver for India to allow it to have access to civil nuclear energy.
Singh said he had conveyed to Sarkozy India's appreciation of France's steadfast support for lifting of international restrictions on nuclear cooperation with India that are still in place. Both leaders agreed that there was a need to reform international institutions to bring them in conformity with the existing realities.
"President Sarkozy reiterated France's full support for India's permanent membership of an expanded UN Security Council," the Prime Minister said.
The two sides agreed that there was immense scope to work towards creating a "more equitable and inclusive" international order.
Sharing India's concerns on terrorism, France agreed to cooperate with it to fight the scourge."A global fight against terrorism is essential to protect open, democratic and multi-cultural societies like our two countries," Singh said.
Singh said Sarkozy showed deep understanding of India's perspective on the issue of energy security, sustainable development and climate change.
A joint statement issued by the two sides reflected their desire to strengthen cooperation in these areas within the framework of the Bali process and the provisions and principles of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Singh added.
The Prime Minister said that he had accepted the French President's invitation to visit France for the next India-European Union summit.
Both the sides signed several agreements, including one to facilitate transfer of sentenced prisoners and to construct and operate Jules Horowitz reactors. Another agreement signed between the two sides was about the protection of classified information in the field of defence.
To a question on terrorism, Singh said, "Countries and societies committed to pluralism, rule of law and human freedom are particularly vulnerable to terrorist onslaughts."
"I think it is very important that India and France should cooperate, share information and intelligence gathering for defence of the values which are dear to both our countries," he added.
Sarkozy, who was accorded a warm ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhawan by President Pratibha Patil [Images], said his visit to India would help further boost the partnership between the two countries.
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