French Consul says Jaitapur project a “key issue” for ties, negotiations on

Mumbai: Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s France visit, a senior French diplomat serving in India on Thursday said the Jaitapur nuclear power project is a “key issue” and negotiations on the same are still on.

Comparing the Jaitapur nuclear project, which is proposed to be built by French energy major EDF, with the Dassault Systems’ Rafale aircraft procurement, France’s Consul General in the financial capital, Jean-Marc Sere-Charlet told reporters here that just like the Rafale aircraft, a 10,000 MW project like Jaitapur will have ramifications for over 50 years.

Terming it a “very sensitive” one, Sere-Charlet said, “We hope this (Jaitapur) will be some sort of a key issue because it is cooperation on a very sensitive field for the next 50 years… This is a project that is key for our relations, we need more and we are working on that.”.

The senior diplomat was answering a specific question on the key wins which both France and India can have from the state visit and the work which is being carried out. Sere-Charlet, however, refused to share any update on the negotiations for the project in the ecologically sensitive Konkan coast of Maharashtra, which has been in the works since 2009.

When asked sspecifically if there has been any progress on the civilian nuclear liability clause, which is reported to be the most sensitive issue bothering the French, he declined to answer.

He, however, said that the ties between India and France are on a firm footing, and the two nations are also celebrating 25 years of strategic cooperation this year. The militaries of India and France constantly conduct joint exercises, the last one being of both the airforces, Sere-Charlet said, adding that a French frigate will be visiting Mumbai next month. He said the forces from both sides are also set to March alongside each other during the Bastille Day event on July 14 this year.

When asked if India’s continued buying of Russian oil will prove to be a stumbling block for the further deepening of Indo-French ties because it thwarts the West’s attempts at isolating Russia economically, he replied in the negative. He said India did not side with Russia during various discussions on the issue at the UN as well, and no one can have issues with the country buying oil for cheap and even selling it to the same countries in the West which have imposed the sanctions in the first place. The Indo-Pacific is of importance to France, which has a population of over 1 million in the various isles around the region, he said, adding that the collaboration with India is critical on this aspect.