New Delhi: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the conditions in which the people of Kashmir are living are unsustainable and must be improved, according to a Reuters news agency report on Friday.
Merkel told German reporters traveling with her that she would raise the matter with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi later on Friday evening, the Reuters report said adding that while she was aware of India's position regarding Kashmir, she wanted to hear Modi's plans for restoring calm to the region.
"The situation for the people there is currently not sustainable and must improve," Merkel said, according to Reuters.
The comments could be seen as potentially embarrassing for the Indian side given that the comments seem to buy the narrative put out by Pakistan that the situation in Kashmir, where India has imposed restrictions on the movement of people and on communications, was violative of the human rights of people living in the region.
New Delhi has stressed that the aim of scrapping Article 370 from the constitution, thus enabling the junking of the special status for Kashmir, was aimed at improving the lives of the people through the introduction of targeted welfare programmes. India has also said that no lives of civilians have been lost in action by the government forces since India imposed curbs on the movement of people and restricted communication links in August.
Merkel was to cap her programmes in New Delhi on Friday with a dinner with prime minister Modi. There was no confirmation of whether Kashmir was discussed though Indian officials ahead of the meeting said that any issue could be discussed between the two leaders. Merkel who arrived in New Delhi on Thursday is to conclude her visit to India on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, the two countries signed seventeen agreements covering agriculture, maritime technology, ayurveda and yoga among others, India’s External Affairs Ministry said.
Five joint declarations of intent were also exchanged between India and Germany, the ministry said in a statement.
The joint declarations of intent included cooperation on strategic projects, partnership for green urban mobility, research and development on artificial intelligence and cooperation in the field of prevention of marine litter, it said.
Merkel expressed her country’s willingness to invest in infrastructure in India and Modi on his part invited Germany to invest in two defence industrial corridors in India — one in the north and the other in the south.