External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Thursday described the mutilation of two Indian soldiers in Kashmir as “extremely shocking and unacceptable, even barbaric.”

He said, “And I cannot imagine anyone would disagree with that on either side of the border. Whether they take responsibility or not is another matter, and we are still talking about that. But it cannot but be described as barbaric,” he told reporters here after a working lunch with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

Mr. Khurshid said:

“Why this should happen and happen now, perplexes me. I do not think anyone on the other side of the border is achieving anything by doing this. We would like to analyse this more carefully. We do want some redress and we do want some transparency and accountability.

“We do believe whoever has tried to derail the peace process should not succeed. We want to be moderate in our response, but at the same time we are determined to get answers. India has consistently taken the position that the issues between India and Pakistan cannot be treated in multilateral forums. There is no reason for us to change our stand and going to U.N.”

Mr. Khurshid’s visit to Paris, during which he will call on President Francois Hollande, is long overdue. The visit of his predecessor, S.M. Krishna, had to be cancelled when he was dropped from the Cabinet.

Mr. Khurshid pointed out that of all the countries, he chose France for his first foreign visit. And well he might. The French were miffed at no Indian External Affairs Minister having visited the country since the UPA came to power again. That now stands corrected. This is a welcome visit since it is a precursor to President Francois Hollande’s visit to India, scheduled for mid-February.

As for the questions raised about the Jaitapur plant and the phenomenal rise in the cost of the EPR reactor (whose original price has gone up from €3.3 billion to €8.5 billion), he said the talks were on track and both sides would make adjustments. He parried a question whether Areva would still be able to provide power at under Rs. 4 per kilowatt/hour, as initially promised.

Asked about the delays in India signing a deal to buy Rafale aircraft, which won the IAF’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft competition, he quipped: “As you all know, French wine improves when it is kept longer in the bottle!” The talks were moving in the right direction, he said.

Mr. Fabius said India was a strategic and major partner of France. “Our relations are excellent and there is great economic potential between the two countries.”

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