Modi calls off meeting with French FM; Boris Johnson shortens India visit

The new protocol could mean a general scaling back of the PM’s meetings with visiting dignitaries

As the COVID-19 cases continued to surge, French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian’s scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to be cancelled as part of an effort to deal with the crisis, which could cast a cloud on other incoming and outgoing visits planned.

The new protocol could mean a general scaling back of the PM’s meetings with visiting dignitaries, including Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid who arrived on a two-day visit on Wednesday and the upcoming visit of U.K. Prime Minister on April 26, and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga, who is due shortly after that.

Officials said U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now shortened his visit and limited his travels to Delhi, in view of the crisis. Mr. Johnson had cancelled his earlier plans to visit India in January due to the pandemic surge in the U.K. at the time.

“We’ve been in close contact with the Indian government about the PM’s upcoming visit in the light of the COVID situation in India. As a result of these discussions, the Prime Minister has made the decision to reduce the length of the visit,” Mr. Johnson’s spokesperson told reporters in London, adding that the British PM’s programme would be focused on government meetings and interaction with Indian business leaders.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also due to travel to Portugal for the E.U.-India summit on May 8, and visit France on the same trip, which was one of the reasons Mr. Drian’s call on the PM had been considered important.

On Monday, a press release issued by the French Embassy had said Mr. Drian would meet PM Modi after his bilateral consultations with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday. However, the meeting did not materialise on Tuesday or Wednesday, after which Mr. Drian was due to leave for meetings in Bengaluru. An official aware of the PM’s schedule told The Hindu that all such meetings over the next few days have been called off as Mr. Modi has to “focus on COVID-related meetings”.

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