French nuclear offer: fact or fiction?

THIS is apropos of various news items that recently appeared regarding a nuclear deal with France. During his recent visit to Europe and various other countries, President Zardari met Nicolas Sarkozi, the president of France.
Mr Sarkozi announced some financial help for the internally displaced persons in the Pakistani territory. The issues of bilateral interest must have also been discussed. Pakistan has always had good relations with France in the areas of developing submarines and buying fighter jets. But we came across something quite ambiguous this time.
Speaking to a press confer ence right after the meeting, the foreign minister of Pakistan claimed that France has offered the transfer of civilian nuclear technology to Pakistan and that they are looking forward to complete the homework on this issue.
On the other hand, the press release from the French presidency claimed that they have offered Pakistan help in keeping their nuclear assets safeguarded from the terrorists’ reach.
The civilian technology offer was not taken into account. The minister’s claim grabbed much attention all over and even the leading French newspaper Le Monde quoted him saying the same thing. The Reuters observed that this claim was categorically denied in a following interaction of French government representatives with the media.
More recently, while on his visit to the UAE, a close source of the French president was quoted as saying that Mr Sarkozi may visit Pakistan later in the year to follow on the nuclear safety offer.
The Pakistani authorities again claimed that this visit would be to sign the civilian nuke deal. While we remember that India and America reached such a deal after good enough time of dialogue and endorsement from the Congress, no such formalities have been reported as yet in this case.
The issue of proliferation still remained unresolved. The world seems to have reservations on the already existing machines on our lands. In such an atmosphere, a similar offer from China might have had sounded realistic.
I don’t mean to say that it’s totally false. But if it is true, why are the French government representatives reluctant to acknowledge it?
In any case the idea of meeting the energy needs of Pakistan on such a scale looks very bright.

Published in DAWN on  11-06-2009.

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