After Abe, Aussie PM Morrison postpones visit to India

After Abe, Aussie PM Morrison postpones visit to India

Morrison spoke to Modi over the phone and conveyed his decision to postpone the tour in view of the devastating bushfire in Victoria and New South Wales states of Australia. Photo/AFP

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison indefinitely postponed his visit to India in order to lead his government’s endeavour to control ravaging bushfire in the southeastern region of the country.

Morrison, who was expected to travel to New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru between January 13 and 16, is the second foreign leader to postpone his visit since last month. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was expected to come on December 15 for a three-day visit. Prime Minister Modi and Abe were expected to hold the annual India-Japan summit in Guwahati. The visit was postponed in view of the widespread protests in Guwahati and other parts of the Northeastern region as well as the rest of the country against the new citizenship law introduced by the Modi government.

Morrison spoke to Modi over the phone and conveyed his decision to postpone the tour in view of the devastating bushfire in Victoria and New South Wales states of Australia.

A press release issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) quoted Modi telling Morrison over the phone that New Delhi would look forward to welcoming him on a state visit “at a mutually convenient time later in the year”.

Apart from meeting Modi, Morrison was expected to call on President Ram Nath Kovind and deliver the keynote address at this year’s Raisina Dialogue – the flagship geostrategic and geopolitical conference the MEA holds annually with the prominent think-tank Observer Research Foundation.   

Morrison would have been the first foreign leader to visit New Delhi in 2020. With his visit now postponed indefinitely, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is going to be the first foreign leader to visit New Delhi. Bolsonaro will be the chief guest at the Republic Day ceremony at Rajpath in New Delhi on January 26.

Modi conveyed to Morrison his heartfelt condolences on behalf of all Indians and on his own behalf on the damage to life and property in Victoria and New South Wales due to severe and prolonged bushfires, the MEA stated in a press release, adding: “He also offered India’s unstinted support to Australia and the Australian people as they bravely face the unprecedented natural calamity.”

The bushfire has already killed at least nine people in southeast Australia, with four others still missing since December 25. Over 200 properties were lost since Christmas Day. Morrison was heckled by local residents during a recent tour to one of the worst-affected town.

With both Abe and Morrison postponing visits to New Delhi, proposed signing of bilateral agreements between India and Japan, and India and Australia for sharing of military logistics have now been delayed.

India had already signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the United States in August 2016. Once New Delhi signs similar agreements with Tokyo and Canberra; Indian Army, Navy and Air Force will have logistics sharing arrangements with counterparts in all the three other nations in the “Quad” – the US, Japan and Australia. The Quad had first come into existence in 2007 but had fizzled out soon. The four-nation initiative was re-launched in Manila in November 2017, ostensibly to counter the expansionist aspirations of China in Indo-Pacific.

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