J&K likely to be on table as Modi talks to world leaders in France

  • Aug 25, 2019
  • Indian Express

Amidst renewed focus on J&K and the lockdown in the Valley, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Biarritz, an elegant seaside town on southwest France’s Basque coast, on Sunday afternoon for his first G-7 summit. While Modi is coming prepared to speak at two sessions — one on climate change and the other on digital issues — it is likely that he will hold discussions with major world leaders on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

Modi is likely to meet US President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in this town where the wealthy French have their holiday homes. Sources said Modi lands in Biarritz, 700 km from Paris, on the afternoon of August 25 and is expected to meet some of the G-7 leaders that day. Macron is expected to host the PM for dinner later in the day.

While his predecessor Manmohan Singh has attended the G-8 summit five times between 2005 and 2009, this will be Modi’s first visit – at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron – to this gathering of major western economies of the world which was reduced from G-8 to G-7 with the expulsion of Russia two years ago. There is talk of bringing Russia back and make it G-8 again.

US President Trump landed here on Saturday afternoon for the summit and the American officials have made it clear that Kashmir will be on the table when Modi meets him. His officials have now said that Trump is “ready to assist”, instead of “ready to mediate”.

“The United States is watching the situation in Kashmir very closely. We’re continuing to call for calm and restraint, including on rhetoric. But we note the broader implications of the developments in Jammu and Kashmir, and the potential for increased stability in the region. So the President is very focused on this situation, these issues. And he has indicated that he is ready to assist if both sides are interested in helping to reduce their tensions,” a senior US administration official said.

“Trump would want to hear from Prime Minister Modi on how he plans to reduce regional tensions and uphold respect for human rights for Kashmir, as part of India’s role as the world’s largest democracy,” a senior US administration official said, ahead of the G-7 summit.

Like Trump, Modi will also land at Bordeaux-Mérignac airport and from there, take the “Air Force One C32”, which will land on the small airport runway in Biarritz.

PM @narendramodi has been conferred The King Hamad Order of the Renaissance.

This was announced by His Majesty the King of Bahrain. pic.twitter.com/tuJYMzCpsK

The US official said, “We do expect the issue of India-Pakistan relations to come up. India’s decision to rescind Article 370 in Kashmir is an internal decision, but certainly with regional implications. And President Trump will likely want to hear how Prime Minister Modi intends to calm regional tensions in light of this significant move.” These comments were made in a background briefing in Washington DC and released on Saturday morning.

“The President is likely to stress the need for dialogue among all sides of the conflict and his hope that India will lift the communications and movement restrictions in Kashmir and exercise utmost restraint in dealing with potential protests. And certainly, President Trump is also calling on Pakistan to prevent the infiltration of militants across the Line of Control that divides Kashmir and to crack down on groups on its territory that have attacked India in the past,” the official said.

Though a major surfing destination with long sandy beaches and surf schools, this French seaside resort town is now under lockdown by security forces ahead of the summit. More than 13,000 police are out on the streets and a special magistrate court has been set up to try anyone committing offences, and the streets are closed and barricaded.

The historic centre of the Basque town was emptied of tourists on Friday before the arrival of leaders, surfers were ordered out of the water on the central beach, the Grande Plage, and sent further round the coast. Sailing vessels were moved on and kept away. The train station and airport have been closed over the weekend, creating a no-go zone. There are road checks at the Spanish border and police have been stationed around town and on top of buildings.

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