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India, France to Boost Military Cooperation, Political Ties


French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he hopes an international consensus is near to allow countries like France to sell India peacetime nuclear technology. Mr. Sarkozy's comments came during a visit to New Delhi meant to strengthen military and political cooperation between his country and India. Anjana Pasricha reports from the Indian capital.

President Nicolas Sarkozy voiced strong support Friday for a controversial civil nuclear energy deal signed by United States and India. The deal, if finalized, will enable India to obtain long-denied civil nuclear technology from countries like the U.S. and France.

India is currently banned from buying fuel and technology for atomic reactors because it has conducted nuclear tests outside the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The French president says negotiations have been finalized on an agreement that would allow France to supply civil nuclear equipment and atomic fuel to India as well.

Mr. Sarkozy says he hopes to obtain a consensus in Europe and the international community that an exception should be made for India. He says it should be done because India has never proliferated, and has and made it clear it wants to separate its civil and military nuclear programs.

After holding talks with Mr. Sarkozy here in New Delhi Friday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India will deepen defense cooperation with France.

"In the area of defense cooperation, we have agreed to go beyond a buyer-seller relationship," he said. "We will increasingly focus on joint research and development projects, transfer of technology, and greater military exchanges."

France has been one of India's largest arms suppliers. Defense contracts were high on the agenda of the French president and his delegation in a country that is expected to spend $30 billion on weapons purchases in the next five years.

French firms are hoping to win an approximately $2 billion contract to upgrade India's existing fleet of Mirage fighters. They are also in the race with Russian and American companies to supply India with 126 new warplanes.

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