A DAY after French President Emmanuel Macron said India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir issue bilaterally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that it took the country 70 years to remove the word ‘temporary’. He was referring to the decision to revoke special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) under Article 370, which, the government has said, was “temporary” in nature.
Addressing the Indian community at the UNESCO headquarters here, Modi said: “You are our country’s voice, representative. I am sure that you will always continue to be India’s voice. I say always because there is no place for the word ‘temporary’ in India. This is a country of 125 crore people, this is the land of Gandhi and Buddha, abode of Ram and Krishna, and it took us 70 years to remove the word ‘temporary’.”
On Thursday, after the bilateral meeting, Macron had said that “it is up to India and Pakistan to resolve their disputes in their bilateral framework, it is the responsibility of both parties to avoid any deterioration on the ground that could lead to an escalation, just as all efforts should be made to end the organisation of cross-border terrorism.”
“(Prime Minister Modi) has shared with me all the changes to which he has proceeded, which is a matter of his full sovereignty as far as the legal aspects are concerned, as well as his very firm commitment to maintaining stability in the region and actively combatting all forms of escalation and any resurgence of terrorist activities,” Macron said.
He said France would, obviously, remain attentive to the interests and rights of the civilian population being taken into account in the territories on both sides of the Line of Control. “We attach great importance to this spirit of easing the situation and dialogue, and we are greatly attached to the effectiveness of the policy of stability in combatting terrorism,” he said.
He said he would hold discussions with Pakistan to recall France’s desire to have this issue taken up in the bilateral framework, as well as France’s concern about maintaining stability in the region and combatting all forms of terrorism.
Speaking at the community event on Friday, Modi, in his almost 30-minute speech, hit out at what he referred to as the “evils” of the country, including corruption, nepotism, looting public money and terrorism. “It is also true that in the last five years, we have given red card to many evils from the country. Today, corruption, nepotism, familism, looting public money, terrorism — the way they are being curbed in New India has never happened before,” he said.
“As soon as the new government was formed, a new ministry was created for water power, which would holistically look at all water-related issues. It was also decided to provide pension facilities to poor farmers and traders. The inhuman practice of triple talaq has been abolished,” he said.
“Similarly, the government has taken important decisions in the field of child protection and health. Today, there is a lot of discussion that the Parliament session this time was the most productive in the last six decades,” he said.
Coining a new abbreviation, he said: “Nowadays, we talk of 21st century ‘INFRA’. That is ‘IN’ plus ‘FRA’ — the alliance of India and France… From solar infra to social infra, from technical infra to space infra, from digital infra to defence infra, the alliance of India and France is moving strongly.”
“I am told that the Ganpati festival has become a main feature of the Parisian cultural calendar. On this day, Paris transforms into a mini-India. That is a few days from now, the echo of ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’ will also be heard here,” he said.
On fighting terrorism, he said, “We have fought imperialism, fascism and extremism, not only in India but also on the soil of France. Our friendship is built on solid ideals. The character of the two countries is formed by the shared values of liberty, equality and fraternity… Today, if India and France are closely cooperating in fighting the great dangers of the world, then this is also the reason for this shared value. Whether it is terrorism or climate change.”
Modi also met French Prime Minister Edouard Charles Philippe, and inaugurated a memorial in Nid D’Aigle for Indian victims of two Air India crashes in 1950 and 1966.
He later left for UAE, from where he will go to Bahrain. He will return to Biarritz, in France, on August 25 for the G-7 Summit. Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale said that during the bilateral talks, the Prime Minister outlined the recent steps taken by the government on Article 370, and emphasised that it is an internal affair.