Thunder Down Under: Modi set for grand Aussie tour

  • Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Nov 07, 2014 00:14 IST

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will host a reception for his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at the 161-year-old Melbourne Cricket Ground on November 18, an iconic stadium where Michael Jackson, Rolling Stones and Madonna have performed.

The MCG, however, would look empty as only 400-500 dignitaries, including prominent Australian politicians, Indians and cricket stars, have been invited for the high-profile reception to be held after the G-20 summit concludes. The MCG has a capacity of more than one lakh.

“Cricket is a shared passion of Australia and India. I thank PM Tony Abbott for hosting me at the iconic MCG,” said Modi, who will also be addressing the Australian Parliament.

It is rare for foreign leaders to be hosted at the MCG where Pope John Paul II had held a mass in 1986.

But Modi is no ordinary leader. The Indian PM has the maximum requests from G-20 leaders for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the summit in Brisbane on November 15-16. Ministry of external affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said several requests were being considered and outcome would depend on availability and matching of schedules.

Akbaruddin said the focus would be on meeting as many leaders as possible, especially those who the PM hasn’t met in the past.

Modi said, “I look forward to working with G-20 leaders on important issues concerning the world, particularly those relating to the global economy.” Modi’s visit will be the bilateral visit to Australia by an Indian PM in 28 years.

A reception is also being hosted for Modi at Sydney Olympic Park on November 17, an event expected to draw more than 15,000 guests including Indians settled in Australia. His itinerary includes a visit to a war memorial with Abbott.

Modi will land in Myanmar on November 11 to attend the ASEAN and East Asia Summits. “ASEAN is central to our dream of an Asian century, where India will play a crucial role,” said Modi.

He will also visit Fiji on November 19, making him the first Indian PM to visit the South Pacific Island nation in 33 years.

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