PM Modi's visit leaves Aussie parliament divided

Just hours after Modi’s bilateral talks with Albanese, Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra will hold a special screening of the BBC documentary critical of the PM

PM Modi with Australian PM Anthony Albanese (Photo Courtesy: @narendramodi/Twitter)
PM Modi with Australian PM Anthony Albanese (Photo Courtesy: @narendramodi/Twitter)

NH Digital

After US President Joe Biden cancelled his trip to Australia due to the debt-ceiling talks in Washington, the Quad leaders’ summit in Sydney became irrelevant and was thus cancelled. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to go ahead with his visit; as always, his priority is to address and meet the Indian diaspora. He had also scheduled meetings with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and top business CEOs. 

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had announced Modi’s three-nation tour beginning Friday that included his visit to Australia from May 22 to 24. Modi had last visited Australia nine years ago in 2014 when Tony Abbott was Prime Minister. However, this visit has come at a time when as The Guardian has reported the diasporas are increasingly split.

Modi addressed the diaspora at Australia’s largest entertainment and sporting arena in Sydney. According to Bloomberg, the fans came from across the country — on chartered flights from Melbourne dubbed “Modi Airways” where a one-way ticket cost A$249 ($165.17/ Rs 13,655) and on the “Modi Express” coach from Canberra and Brisbane. Tuesday’s donations-funded event was held at the Qudos Bank Arena — the same venue where the Backstreet Boys performed in March and Sam Smith and Lizzo will take the stage later this year.

It must be recalled that when Albanese visited India in March, the two leaders circled a stadium named after Modi in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad on a golden chariot at the fourth Test match between India and Australia.

The Australian government had said in a statement that the Sydney event is being organised by Indian Australian Diaspora Foundation (IADF) to celebrate Australia's dynamic and diverse Indian community, "a core part of our multicultural community”. According to IADF’s website, its partners include the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Overseas Friends of BJP Australia, Vishva Hindu Parishad of Australia and Sewa International Australia— all of which are affiliated to the RSS.

The Directors of this organisation are Nihal Agar, Prakash Mehta, Vasu Ramyavaram, Jay Shah and Rahul Jethi. Agar heads the Hindu Council of Australia and Mehta is on the Board of Directors of the organisation. This Jay Shah has nothing to do with his namesake, BCCI president and son of Union Home Minister Amit Shah. It has been reported that Shah was instrumental in organising the community programme in Sydney.

Just hours after Modi’s bilateral talks with Albanese, Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra will be holding a special screening of the two-part BBC documentary critical of Modi. Titled The Modi Question, the documentary banned in India, examines the prime minister’s relationship with Muslims, the country’s largest minority group, and the fallout over the 2002 religious riots that took place in the western Gujarat state at a time when Modi was its chief minister.

After the 40-minute documentary is screened, there will be a panel discussion, which will include Australian Greens senator Jordan Steele-John, Aakashi Bhatt, daughter of former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, and Aakar Patel, former head of Amnesty India.

Australian politician and Greens party senator David Shoebridge, who will attend the screening, said, "We have said repeatedly that the degrading human rights situation in India, that the lack of freedom of press, needs to be an issue that is squarely raised by Australia in its involvement with the Indian government." Australia’s SBS News reported him saying that Australia has and should have a strong friendship with India, but "that friendship should be a friendship of truth".

PM Modi began his three-nation tour on Friday from Japan where he attended three sessions at the G7 summit following an invitation by Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida. The Prime Minister along with US president Joe Biden, Japanese prime minister Kishida and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese also attended the third in-person Quad Summit in Hiroshima.

The Quad meeting was moved to the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Hiroshima after US President Joe Biden postponed his trip to Australia amid ongoing negotiations over raising the US debt limit.

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