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  India   All India  04 Jan 2020  Australian PM calls off visit to India due to bush fire crisis

Australian PM calls off visit to India due to bush fire crisis

THE ASIAN AGE. | SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Jan 4, 2020, 6:43 am IST
Updated : Jan 4, 2020, 6:43 am IST

The summit was to be held in Guwahati, but was cancelled by the violent protests in Assam at that time over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Photo: AP)
 Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Photo: AP)

New Delhi: A day after being heckled by angry locals at Cobargo in the Australian province of New South Wales (NSW) over raging bushfires in that area that have led to several deaths over the past four months, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has cancelled his visit to India that was scheduled to take place in mid-January, sources have confirmed.

In a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Mr Morrison, PM Modi said he “looked forward to welcoming the Prime Minister of Australia in India on a state visit at a mutually convenient time later in the year”. PM Modi also “conveyed his heartfelt condolences on behalf of all Indians and on his own behalf on the damage to life and property in Australia due to severe and prolonged bushfires”.

Just on Thursday, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) had said the Australian PM had been invited to attend the Raisina Dialogue conference in the capital which is organised annually this month by the MEA and private thinktank ORF.

This is the second cancellation of a high-profile visit in the past one month, the first being the scheduled one by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month to attend the India-Japan annual summit.

The summit was to be held in Guwahati, but was cancelled by the violent protests in Assam at that time over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

In a statement on Friday, the MEA said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a telephone conversation today with the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. PM Modi conveyed his heartfelt condolences on behalf of all Indians and on his own behalf on the damage to life and property in Australia due to severe and prolonged bushfires. He also offered India’s unstinted support to Australia and the Australian people, who are bravely facing this unprecedented natural calamity.”

The MEA added, “Expressing his satisfaction at the progress in bilateral relations in recent years, PM Modi reiterated India’s commitment to strengthen its strategic partnership with Australia. He stated that to this end, he looked forward to welcoming the Prime Minister of Australia in India on a state visit at a mutually convenient time later in the year. The Prime Minister conveyed his best wishes to Prime Minister Morrison and the people of Australia for the rest of the year 2020.”

According to global media reports, Australia’s PM Scott Morrison “had to cut short a visit to a town ravaged by fire after angry locals heckled him over the government’s response”. Locals there reportedly said he had “done very little to help Cobargo in New South Wales (NSW), where two people died earlier this week and many lost their homes”. The Australian PM was quoted as saying he was “not surprised people are feeling very raw”. NSW’s premier has reportedly declared a week-long state of emergency in response to the escalating bushfire threat. According to reports, since September, “bushfires have killed 18 people and destroyed more than 1,200 homes across NSW and neighbouring Victoria” and “at least 17 people remain missing after fires this week alone”.

Tags: scott morrison, bush fire crisis