09 November 2004

Galileo, fusion energy propel India, E.U. `strategic partnership'

9 November 2004
The Hindu

Galileo, fusion energy propel India, E.U. `strategic partnership'

By Siddharth Varadarajan

THE HAGUE, NOV. 8 . The decision to speed up the conclusion of an agreement for India joining the European Union's Galileo global positioning system and to establish an Energy Panel marked the high-point of the `strategic partnership' unveiled by the two sides here on Monday.

Galileo — with its network of 30 satellites becomes operational in 2008 — will provide the first real alternative to the U.S. military-run Navstar/Global Positioning System (GPS), which Washington has the power to turn off on a selective basis. And the Energy Panel will, inter alia, work on the modalities of Indian participation in the ambitious International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project on fusion energy.

If eventual Indian participation in Galileo will be the first concrete expression of Europe and India's desire to work for a multipolar world order, collaboration on the ITER will help New Delhi establish a new benchmark for its participation in international civilian nuclear initiatives — something Washington has not been too keen to encourage.

The joint statement issued at the end of the fifth India-E.U. summit noted that the two sides welcomed the "progress in the on-going discussion on the E.U.-India Draft Cooperation Agreement on the Galileo satellite navigation project. This discussion "will ensure India's equitable participation in Galileo space, ground and user segments" and "will guarantee the availability of highest quality signals over the Indian territory."

A new flexibility

The choice of words suggests a new flexibility on Europe's part, for at stake is the question of access to the encryption codes for the military-grade high-end Public Regulated Service (PRS) signal architecture. Until now, the E.U. has been reluctant to provide these in the event of New Delhi coming on board the Galileo venture, in part because of U.S. apprehensions. Highly-placed Indian officials said the matter of PRS codes had been a subject for discussion between the national security establishments of India, France and Germany and that a solution would emerge soon. India is also looking closely at the E.U.'s arrangement with China on Galileo, where the modalities for high-end access are still being worked on despite Beijing already being on board.

In his remarks at a joint press conference with E.U. leaders, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, highlighted both the Galileo and ITER projects and said, in response to a question, that India would be willing to invest money "appropriate to our participation."

Fusion energy project

As for the fusion energy project, the European Commission President, Romano Prodi, said the E.U. was keen on including India. Describing the long-term energy supply situation as "dramatic" keeping in mind growth in India and China, he said he did not want India's development to stop because of lack of energy.

On their part, the Indian side told the E.U. that New Delhi supported the European proposal to locate the ITER's proposed tokamak reactor at Cadarache in France, rather than at Rokkasho Mura in Japan, as Washington and Tokyo are insisting. Apart from the E.U., Japan and the U.S., the others involved in ITER are China, Russia, Canada and South Korea. If successful, the project will lead to the provision of cheap and abundant power by around 2050 but because fusion reactors involve tritium — which is also an ingredient in nuclear weapons — the U.S. has certain "proliferation concerns" about ITER's doors being opened too wide.

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