Friday, January 25, 2008

Sarko's Nuclear And Arms Selling Jaunt Continues To India

By Cernig

Nicholas Sarkozy, president of France, seems to be following George W's example and has transformed the office of President into the primary sales office for weaponry and nuclear technology produced by his country. Following on his success selling nuclear know-how and a military base to the UAE, Sarkozy is in India trailed by 60 Captains of Industry, drumming up business:
India and France said they would push their military ties beyond weapons sales and open up nuclear power cooperation as soon as New Delhi is able to enter the global atomic energy market.

...The visit has seen defence ties high on the agenda, with France lobbying hard in a country ranked as the biggest weapons buyer among emerging nations and expected to spend an estimated 30 billion dollars on arms over the next five years.

French-Indian defence ties took a blow last month when New Delhi cancelled a Eurocopter bid for a 600-million-dollar (410-million-euro) helicopter contract due to alleged irregularities. The alleged payment of bribes in a submarine deal is also being probed.

France was the second largest arms supplier to India after Russia but has now been overtaken by Israel. The United States is also pushing for a place in the Indian market.

However, French firms are expected to be invited to upgrade India's fleet of Mirage fighters in a contract worth up to 1.5 billion euros -- and they are set to compete in a tender for 126 war planes.

Sarkozy also announced progress on a nuclear cooperation agreement that has been in the works for years to allow France to supply equipment and fuel to India once it has cleared hurdles with the UN's nuclear watchdog.

A joint statement said "this agreement will form the basis of wide-ranging bilateral cooperation from basic and applied research to full civil nuclear cooperation including reactors, fuel supply and management."

India is currently banned from buying fuel for atomic reactors and related equipment because of nuclear weapons tests in 1974 and 1988.

The French deal hinges on the outcome of negotiations between India and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and with the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls the global nuclear trade.
Sarkozy said he was confident that meetings allowing nuclear trade with India, a non-NPT signatory, would go well. Meanwhile, one of his captains of industry offered the Indians a sweetener on all the deals - transfer of technology to enable them to build Rafale advanced fighters under license along with 40 of the aircraft at a bargain price right now.
The offer was made by Charles Edelstennie, scion of the Dassult family, the makers of the Rafale and Mirage fighters. "We know the Indian Air Force, with which we have a decade-long close association, is facing force depletion. So we are ready to supply 40 Rafales, the world's first omni-role fighters to India, in a short span of time", the chairman and chief executive of Dassult, a multi-billion French military and civil aerospace company, told PTI.

Edelastennie said Rafale fighters could be an interim sale to India as New Delhi finalises preparations to acquire 126 Multi Role Combat Aircraft at an estimated cost of $10 billion ... Terming the Rafale fighter supply as a "friendly gesture to help close friend India," Edelstennie said his company was a strong bidder for India's MCRA contract.

Rubbishing notions that Rafale came with a heavy price tag, the Dassult CEO said "the fighters' cost to efficiency was not high. New Delhi would get a cheaper price tag as the fighters' assembly in India under technology transfer would not be high".
The Dassault boss also told reporters that French arms sales came without strings attached, unlike sales from other nations like the US and Russia.

I'm beginning to wonder what's on Sarko's mind. This might all be just friendly competition and he may even have discussed his tour and the deals he's making with his pal Bush. But then again it is beginning to look like the early days of a deliberate French attempt to steal some of the US' superpower status. That's only possible, if so, because Bush has so weakened American prestige and power with his adventure in Iraq and a string of diplomatic idiocies. That weakening may have left enough of a power vacuum that nations like the Russians and French are looking to fill that vacuum to their own benefits. Wouldn't it be ironic if George Bush, the president who has used America's lone-power status in a bid for hegemony, instead has ushered in a new multi-polar period of instability as lesser powers compete (and quite possibly clash) for the gap his policies have created?

Update Swaraaj Chauhan, an Indian professor of journalism who blogs at The Moderate Voice, has noticed recent arms deals too and rightly points out that the Indian military's bugbear is always Pakistan (and vice versa). He reminds me that I wrote a post back in 2005 exploring how arms deals to the region, especially some key deals from the US, have helped make it potentially the most dangerous place on Earth.

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