PM Modi’s meetings with dignitaries to be scaled down amid Covid spike
The government plans to scale down Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meetings with visiting dignitaries in the wake of a surge in Covid-19 cases within the country and abroad, people familiar with developments said on Tuesday.
This was cited as the reason for the cancellation of a meeting between the PM and visiting French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his delegation on Tuesday, the people said on condition of anonymity.
The development came close on the heels of foreign secretary Harsh Shringla’s periodic Covid-19 test producing an “inconclusive” result sometime after a meeting between the delegations led by external affairs minister S Jaishankar and Le Drian at Hyderabad House, the people said. Another test was conducted, and its outcome would be known by Wednesday, the people said.
The foreign secretary has already received both doses of the vaccine and has tested negative in periodic tests conducted over the past few weeks, the people added. There was no word from the French side on whether there would be any change in Le Drian’s itinerary. The French minister participated in a meeting with adequate social distancing at the French embassy, and he is scheduled to travel to Bengaluru on Wednesday.
There was also no word on whether the meeting between Le Drian and the prime minister would be re-scheduled.
The spike in Covid-19 cases in several parts of the world has affected the travel schedules of ministers from several countries. More than a dozen foreign and defence ministers had been expected to participate in-person in this year’s Raisina Dialogue, the flagship event of the external affairs ministry, before it was recently declared a fully digital affair.
Le Drian was one of the few ministers who went ahead with plans to visit India for the Dialogue and bilateral meetings.
Australian foreign minister Marise Payne, who was to have participated in a trilateral meeting with Jaishankar and Le Drian on the margins of the Dialogue, called off her visit to New Delhi over the weekend as it would have entailed a lengthy quarantine on returning home.
There is also no confirmation on whether Japanese foreign minister Yoshihide Suga will go ahead with a planned visit to India in late April or early May.
The second wave of Covid-19 in India has crossed the previous highest surge and the upward trend of infections is a cause of concern, officials have said.
The country recorded 185,287 new cases and 1,026 deaths on Tuesday according to the HT dashboard. It has so far seen 13,871,325 cases and 172,134 deaths.