PM Modi to Visit Austria Marks a New Chapter: Strengthening Ties After 41 Years

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Austria on July 9 and 10, making him the first Indian leader to travel to the country in 41 years. This visit signifies a historic moment in India-Austria relations, revitalizing a connection that has been dormant since Indira Gandhi’s visit in 1983. Prior to that, the last Indian prime minister to set foot in Austria was Jawaharlal Nehru in 1955.

Pioneers in Diplomacy

The diplomatic relationship between India and Austria began in 1949. Nehru’s visit in 1955 was pivotal, as it marked the beginning of India’s active role in Austria’s post-war reconstruction. Following Nehru, Indira Gandhi visited Austria twice, in 1971 and 1983, to strengthen bilateral ties. More recently, the Indian Presidents KR Narayanan and Pratibha Patil visited Austria in 1999 and 2011, respectively, further cementing the relationship between the two nations.

Strengthening Relations Under Modi’s Leadership

PM Modi’s visit to Vienna is not just a ceremonial gesture but a strategic move to strengthen and diversify India-Austria relations. Since taking office, Modi has maintained cordial relations with Austria. Notably, he held a bilateral meeting with the then-Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern in 2017 during the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. He also met Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg in 2021 on the sidelines of the COP-26 summit in Glasgow.

In 2020, PM Modi had a significant conversation with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, where they discussed measures to combat the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed a mutual desire to deepen bilateral ties. These engagements have laid the groundwork for Modi’s upcoming visit, which aims to further enhance the relationship between the two countries.

A Review of India-Austria Relations

Historical Background

  • Diplomatic Relations: India and Austria established diplomatic relations in 1949. The current visit comes as both nations celebrate 75 years of bilateral ties from November 2023 to November 2024.
  • Support for Independence: India played a crucial role in Austria’s negotiations with the Soviet Union in 1953, leading to Austria’s independence in 1955.
  • Economic Cooperation: The Indo-Austrian Joint Economic Commission (JEC), established in 1983, has facilitated over 200 collaborations in sectors such as steel, manufacturing, railways, and metallurgy.

Trade and Commerce

India and Austria enjoy a balanced trade relationship. India exports goods like electronics, textiles, footwear, and mechanical appliances to Austria, while importing machinery, mechanical appliances, and steel from Austria. The trade relationship is complemented by significant joint ventures and technical collaborations.

Cultural and Scientific Exchanges

  • Space Cooperation: On February 25, 2013, India launched Austria’s first two satellites, TUGSAT-1/BRITE and UniBRITE, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
  • Agreements and MoUs: India and Austria have signed over 20 MoUs, covering air services, investment protection, railway infrastructure, health, science, and technology. These agreements highlight the depth and breadth of their cooperation.

The Indian Community in Austria

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, over 31,000 Indians live in Austria, primarily from Kerala and Punjab. The Indian diaspora includes professionals in healthcare and multilateral organizations, businesspersons, and students. There are over 500 Indian students pursuing higher education in Austria, contributing to the cultural and educational exchange between the two nations.

PM Modi’s upcoming visit to Austria marks a significant milestone in India-Austria relations. It not only commemorates a historic diplomatic journey but also paves the way for future collaborations in various fields. This visit is a testament to the enduring friendship between the two nations and their commitment to mutual growth and prosperity.

 

(With inputs from agencies)

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