India-France bilateral talks: Counter-terrorism, space, energy on the table

With the fate of the Rafale deal still in limbo over price issues, a strong statement against terrorism, a new project of space programme related to observation and prevention of climate change, investments in wind and solar energy, cooperation in marine biotechnology are some of the key takeaways expected Monday, Indian and French officials told , ahead of bilateral talks between visiting French President Francois Holland and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Hyderabad House.

Indian and French negotiators are working towards a strong statement against terrorism, and a top government source said there is a possibility of key terror outfits, including the Islamic State, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba, being mentioned in the joint statement.

“Officials are working on a stronger language in the joint statement,” a source said, adding there is also a possibility of either upgrading the joint working group on counter-terrorism or having a separate NSA-level security dialogue. The two sides will talk about ways to strengthen counter-terror cooperation in the aftermath of the Paris and Pathankot attacks.

Last April, when Modi visited France, he had reiterated India’s strong condemnation of the terror attack on the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The then statement described terrorism as a “constant and strategic threat” that both countries faced. It also said that France and India were determined to support each other in combating this scourge.

They had called for dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure, denying safe havens to terrorists, bringing perpetrators and conspirators of terrorist attacks to justice and strengthening of international frameworks to forge closer cooperation in this area, including through supporting initiatives in the framework of the UN, such as the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. This time, sources said, this will be reiterated with more emphasis.

A French official said, “We will have also an announcement in the field of space. There will be a new project of space programme in relation to observation and prevention of climate change. We will have project in the wind energy. Investment will be announced,” he said, adding there will also be cooperation in marine biotechnology.

On the nuclear front, French officials said that nuclear firm Areva was being taken over by French state-controlled power utility Électricité de France (EDF), which operates 60 nuclear reactors in France.

“So now EDF will be in the lead for this kind of operation. That is creating a change in the way nuclear negotiations are being conducted,” the official said. The two sides may give a broad roadmap of the civilian nuclear cooperation in future.