NEW DELHI :
French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the situation in Kashmir with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a telephone conversation last week, almost six months after India revoked Article 370 to integrate the region more closely with the rest of the country.
The two leaders also discussed West Asia and Iran during the conversation, a statement from the French president’s office said.
The conversation took place on Friday but the statement from the Elysee Palace was made public only on Monday. The statement said France was “closely" following the developments in Kashmir.
Last week, envoys from 15 countries visited the erstwhile state, their first since India revoked Article 370 on 5 August that bestowed special status on Kashmir. The government imposed restrictions on the movement of people and embargos on communication including phone calls and the internet. Some Kashmiri politicians have been put under detention, triggering international concern about human rights violations. In recent weeks, phone services have been partially restored and some political leaders freed from detention.
“In the spirit of trust and frankness that characterises their relations, the French President and the Indian Prime Minister discussed the situation in the region of Kashmir, which France continues to follow closely," the Elysee Palace said.
During their talks, the two leaders also “shared views on the necessity of de-escalation in the Middle East. They agreed to work together towards easing tensions by urging the parties to show restraint and responsibility," the French statement said. The reference was to tensions in West Asia following the 3 January killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad that triggered fears of an outbreak of hostilities.
Modi and Macron also spoke about the importance of combating climate change, protecting biodiversity and the need to intensify ministerial visits over this year. “The two leaders expressed their interest in pursuing the strengthening of our partnership in the military and civil nuclear fields, as well as enhancing our operational cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region," the French statement added.
An Indian statement issued on Friday on the conversation had said that Modi and Macron discussed “a range of issues of mutual interest in bilateral relations as well as regional and global situations."
Modi “reiterated his commitment to further strengthening the Strategic Partnership between India and France. He expressed his satisfaction at the steady progress in the multi-faceted relationship between the two countries," India said.
“They agreed on keeping in touch and further enhancing all-round strategic cooperation between the two countries, including in the areas of defence, civil nuclear energy and maritime security," the Indian statement added.