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Macron urges India's Modi to ensure the rights of Kashmir civilians are respected

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

During a visit by Indian PM Narendra Modi, President Emmanuel Macron called on India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir crisis bilaterally, saying France would "remain attentive to ensuring" that the rights of those on both sides were respected.

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

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

The revocation of Article 370 led to an unprecedented lockdown in 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.

France to 'remain attentive'

At the meeting with Modi at the Château de Chantilly near Paris on Thursday, Macron noted that, “France will remain attentive to ensuring that the interests and rights of the civilian population are duly taken into account in the territories on both sides of the Line of Control [between India and Pakistan in the disputed Kashmir region]."

Macron reiterated the French position that the Kashmir issue should be resolved on a bilateral basis. Pakistan seeks multilateral negotiations to help resolve the crisis but India maintains it is a bilateral issue, which strengthens New Delhi’s position.

"I recalled that it was up to India and Pakistan to resolve their dispute bilaterally," Macron added. "It is the responsibility of both parties to avoid any degradation on the ground likely to lead to escalation."

Macron said that he would speak to Pakistan’s prime minister "in the coming days”.

Modi made no mention of the Kashmir crisis in his statement.

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