India on Saturday said it was likely to sign an agreement with France on the Jaitapur nuclear plant in the second half of the year and would try to keep the cost of the project as low as possible.
Enroute to G-20 meetings in Mexico and the Earth Summit in Brazil, officials expressed hopes that the Teesta river agreement between India and Bangladesh would be signed, as it was in mutual interests of both countries, despite West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sulking over the Congress’ choice of the Presidential candidate.
The officials rubbished the charge levelled by former army chief V K Singh about slackness in India’s defence preparedness. They said India’s rising engagement in Afghanistan was not to diminish Pakistan’s role there.
They said the decision by US to establish more defence bases in Asia Pacific was a dynamic and changing situation, and it was too early to make an assessment of the proposed measure.
“The agreement between India and France on the Jaitapur plant will be signed in the second half of this fiscal,” an official said. He said financial closure had not been achieved, but India would try its best to keep the cost minimum.
V Narayanasamy, minister of state in the prime minister’s office, had earlier said land acquisition process for the plant was over and negotiations with France were in advanced stages.
When asked whether the Teesta river agreement would be signed after the Trinamool Congress chief publicly aired her anger over the Congress’ Presidential candidate, the officials said the proposed pact was beneficial for both India and Bangladesh. “As such, we are optimist that the pact will be signed,” one of the officials said.
On Singh’s allegations about slackness in India’s defence preparedness, another official said, “We are better prepared than we were earlier and we will be better prepared in the future.” He said preparedness was a quite relative term. “Defence preparedness against what? We can’t say these are our enemy nations and we have to fix them,” the official said.
He said in the past as well, army heads had written letters to then prime ministers. “General Thimayya had written a letter and then Manekshaw had written to Indira Gandhi at the time of Indo-Pakistan war on Bangladesh,” the official said.
Officials said India and Pakistan had different stand on Siachen. “But that does not mean that other relations could be held hostage to this position,” another official said. None of the sides was making linkages between their positions on Siachen and other economic issues, they said.
India and Pakistan have moved closer on trade issues, with Islamabad deciding to significantly normalise trade with New Delhi, which means granting of most-favoured nation status to India later this year.
India is also likely to allow foreign direct investment from Pakistan, currently prohibited under the Foreign Investment Policy of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion.
On US decision to establish more bases in Asia Pacific than in Atlantic, officials said US is not the only actor in the game in the region which has many players.