New Delhi: India sought to address Sweden’s concerns on Kashmir by informing Stockholm about the steps being taken to bring normalcy back to the Himalayan region. At the same time, New Delhi also highlighted the challenges it is facing due to terrorism fomented from across the border with Pakistan.
According to sources, the issue came up during a meeting between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Swedish counterpart Ann Linde, who arrived in India Monday as part of Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia’s entourage.
Sweden, a major advocate of human rights in the European Union, was only given a readout on what India is planning to do in the Kashmir Valley after the scrapping of Article 370, sources told ThePrint.
Among other things, New Delhi told Stockholm about the steps taken so far, including the restoration of landline connectivity and postpaid mobile services, the sources said.
In a tweet that followed the meeting, Jaishankar said the two sides also discussed the “challenges of terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism”.
“Emphasised that right to life is the most basic human right. Agreed to work together in international forums to address this key challenge of terrorism,” he said.
He added that both sides shared a “strong identity of views on multilateralism” and agreed on a new consultation mechanism.
India and Sweden have also agreed to “cooperate closely in the @UN”, Jaishankar tweeted.
Discussed challenges of terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism. Emphasised that right to life is the most basic human right. Agreed to work together in international forums to address this key challenge of terrorism.
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) December 2, 2019
Days before her visit to India, Linde raised concerns on the human rights situation in Kashmir while speaking in the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag.
“The situation in Kashmir is worrying and the government is closely following developments… We emphasise the importance of respect for human rights, that an escalation of the situation in Kashmir is avoided and that a long-term political solution to the situation must involve Kashmir’s inhabitants,” she said.
She also called for the lifting of restrictions imposed in the Valley after the scrapping of Article 370, which gave the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir a degree of autonomy.
While many restrictions have since been eased, Kashmir remains without internet nearly four months since Article 370 was scrapped on 5 August.
Saying that a “dialogue between India and Pakistan is crucial”, Linde added, “Together with the EU, Sweden is closely following the changes that have taken place in Jammu & Kashmir’s constitutional status and notes information that has emerged about how the development affects the situation for human rights.”
Sweden eyeing India’s fighter-jet programme
Although the Swedish king is a ceremonial head, his visit to India is expected to boost the strong business ties between both countries.
The king had last visited India in 2005. On the first day of his visit Monday, he called on President Ram Nath Kovind and also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sweden is now keen to sell its indigenous warplanes, Gripen, to the Indian Air Force, with its eyes on India’s $15 billion contract for 114 fighter jets, sources said.
Micael Johansson, president and CEO of SAAB, the maker of Gripen fighter jets, is part of the king’s delegation and expected to take forward talks to produce the jets in India under the ‘Make in India’ programme.
SAAB had last year announced a joint venture with the Adani Group, which reportedly aimed to make the jets in India if the Gripen deal was sealed.
However, it faces stiff competition from America’s Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which have also fielded their planes for the competition.