Nuclear ties top on agenda of PM Narendra Modi’s tour

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Published: April 7, 2015 12:03:12 AM

Modi to commence his Europe & Canada trip later this week

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will focus on cooperation and investment in sectors like energy, security, space and military hardware during his tour of Europe and Canada starting later this week. ‘Make in India’ initiatives, the proposed India-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and civil and nuclear deals are also high on the agenda.

On the first leg of the tour, Modi will reach Paris on April 9 where he will meet French President Francois Hollande and a host of other dignitaries during his three-day tour of France. The resolution of problems related to nuclear liability will be on the table for discussions between the two leaders as both sides are keen to give it a final touch considering a lot of work has been done on bilateral level as well as between the companies involved.

According to French officials, “The template is already set for the Indo-French nuclear cooperation. In France, the issue of responsibility and liability is something we are looking at and not just for nuclear energy but also renewable energy.” France, whose company Areva is involved in the 9,900 MW Jaitapur power plant project, has always maintained that they are ready to work within Indian domestic liability law.
While India and France signed a civilian nuclear agreement in 2008 with Areva selling 300 tons of nuclear fuel to Nuclear Power Corporation of

India Limited (NPCIL), the possibility of a commercial agreement on supply of European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) for the proposed Jaitapur plant depends largely on economic and technical viability.

After India reached closure with the US on nuclear liability issues, forward movement on purchase of six reactors with fuel from France will pivot on commercial negotiations between Areva and NPCIL. Sources have indicated that “The supply of EPRs will be on top of  Modi’s agenda  in France but it is dependent on the closure of commercial negotiations between the two companies.”

Other technical issues related to the supply of European reactors will also be talked about, especially in the light of  the French company being told to source material from Indian vendors to bring the power unit price down and boost the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Sourcing from Indian firms can help France address the issue of high prices of reactor parts.

Another big-ticket deal that could be closed during Modi’s visit to Paris is about the launch of a satellite with electronic intelligence systems. It will boost Indian strategic capability in the sub-continent.

On April 12 afternoon, Modi will reach Hannover in Germany, where he is expected to inaugurate the Hannover Messe (Fair)  the next day, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Modi will then proceed to Berlin, where he will have bilateral talks with Merkel. The two sides will be talking about the India-EU FTA, defence cooperation, and other issues of mutual interest.

The Prime Minister will be in Canada from April 14 to 16,  where the highlight will be a public  meeting in Toronto attended by NRIs. He will meet his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper in Ottawa and will address business leaders in Toronto. The visit to Ottawa may also see a much-awaited commercial agreement being signed, paving the way for Canada to supply uranium to India. “We look forward to resuming our civil nuclear energy cooperation with Canada, especially for sourcing uranium fuel for our nuclear power plants,” Modi had posted on Facebook.

The two countries are expected to announce joint research and development in the field of nuclear energy, focusing on augmenting capacity of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors of India. India and Canada signed the civil nuclear cooperation agreement in 2010 and followed it up by inking the administrative arrangement in 2012.

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