Paris, Sept. 12 (Agencies): France joined the US and Britain today in backing India’s atomic energy programme and promised to do all it can to help the country get access to civilian nuclear technology and equipment.
In a dramatic policy shift in July, the US promised India full cooperation in developing its civilian nuclear energy programme. Britain gave its backing last week.
French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a joint statement after a meeting today.
It said: “France acknowledges the need for full international civilian nuclear cooperation with India and will work towards this objective by working with other countries and the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) and deepening bilateral cooperation.”
France, which has the highest number of nuclear reactors after the US, is a member of the NSG, an informal group seeking to control nuclear technology exports.
Foreign secretary Shyam Saran said France would work with the group to try and get restrictions on supply of equipment and technology lifted.
Washington had barred providing atomic technology to India because New Delhi tested nuclear weapons and refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But the US changed policy in return for New Delhi’s commitment to adhere to international non-proliferation regimes.
The statement said France noted “India’s strong commitment to preventing weapons of mass destruction proliferation and the ongoing steps it is taking in this regard”.
“No stone will be left unturned to ensure that India’s energy needs are met,” Chirac told Singh.
Singh also announced India’s decision to acquire six Scorpene submarines at a cost of $3 billion.
Asked if supply of fuel for the starved Tarapur atomic reactor was discussed, Saran said the joint statement set the parameters for nuclear cooperation. “All separate components are part and parcel of the gamut of that cooperation.”
Diplomatic observers said having secured the support of the three big powers, India can now look towards an end to the restrictions on supply of fuel and reactors.
Companies of the three countries will compete with each other to supply equipment.
Chirac offered full support for India’s bid for membership of the UN Security Council.
He summed up his discussions with Singh in these words: “There is no world now and in future I can think of without India.”
The French President will visit India in February, it was announced.