Paris/ New Delhi: The late summer sun had already set when French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi emerged from their extended meeting held in the historic halls of the Napoleonic chateau at Chantilly, about 60 km north of Paris, on Thursday evening.
A meeting that was expected to be over in 60 minutes spilled over to beyond 90 minutes. And when the two leaders emerged to address the press, it was clear why.
In his rather long opening address, Macron made it clear, point by point, exactly how similar French and Indian views had come to be on a range of regional, international and global issues and that the Indo-French partnership, already time tested, would continue to evolve into a very unique, robust and resilient relationship that could be a benchmark for other countries as well.
Modi was content to watch as Macron undertook a strong defence of India and the Indian leader on the controversial issue of the abrogation of Article 370 vis-a -vis Jammu and Kashmir.
In his address, Macron dwelt at length on how Modi had reassured him that the move, an entirely sovereign right of India, was crucial to combat terrorism as well as bring stability to the region that has been fraught with tensions and terror for the past several decades.
In focusing on terror and stability, Macron chose to ignore the complete lockdown and total blackout of communication and information in parts of the state since the move weeks ago.
In what must have been music to Modi's ears, Macron also gave it a miss to raise, at least in public, the reports of mass arrests and protests.
Macron concluded by saying that he would be speaking with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in a few days and would reiterate his stance that both India and Pakistan should work together to bring peace and stability to the region, combat terror and resolve the issue bilaterally.
Macron also announced French support for the Indian space programme, notably the mission to Venus where the French would participate, though he did not elaborate on the extent and form of the cooperation. He also said that France would train Indian astronauts for the future manned space mission.
Meanwhile, the first Rafale aircraft will be handed over to India next month, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"We are happy that the first of the 36 Rafale fighter aircraft will be handed over to India next month," said Modi, during a joint interaction after his bilateral meeting with the French President Emmanuel Macron.
By Ranvir Nayar