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Macron meets with Modi under shadow of India’s Kashmir clampdown

Pascal Rossignol, Pool, AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Indian PM Minister Narendra Modi for talks at the Chateau of Chantilly, near Paris, Aug. 22, 2019.

French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Indian PM Narendra Modi Thursday ahead of the weekend’s G7 summit. The meeting comes as Modi’s government has faced international criticism over its crackdown in the disputed Kashmir region.

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More than a year after their last summit, Macron and Modi are meeting again Thursday ahead of the weekend’s G7 summit in Biarritz, to which Modi has been invited although India is not a formal member of the grouping.

Defense and commercial contracts have dominated the agenda during meetings between French and Indian leaders in recent years. But this time, Modi and Macron are meeting under the shadow of India’s controversial August 5 scrapping of a key constitutional article granting autonomy to the disputed Kashmir region.

The scrapping of Article 370 was implemented under an unprecedented lockdown on Kashmir. Thousands of Kashmiris – including prominent political leaders – have been detained, communication lines cut and mobility in the Kashmir Valley has been severely restricted with the deployment of tens of thousands of additional Indian troops in one of the world’s most militarised zones.

Ahead of the meeting, French officials said Macron and Modi were set to discuss Kashmir during a working dinner Thursday at the Château de Chantilly outside Paris.

"Of course it (Kashmir) will be on the agenda," a French diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

"We have a strategic partnership with India, that means having confidence in each other. We are not going to be aggressive towards India, but we expect the Indian prime minister to explain how he sees things."

Climate, defence deals also on agenda

France has historically avoided intervening in the decades-long crisis between India and neighbouring Pakistan over Kashmir. But following an international outcry over the human rights situation in Kashmir, Paris has called for a cooling down of tensions in the region.

Growing bilateral trade ties

The two leaders are also expected to discuss the environment since India is seen as an ally in the fight against climate change. France is hoping Modi will announce new measures to lower carbon emissions.

Indian media have also speculated that France is likely to offer additional Rafale fighter jets to India.

While the 2016 deal for 36 Rafale jets was signed for €7.87 billion, the Indian daily Economic Times quoted unnamed sources as saying that France will offer an additional 36 aircraft.

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