14:59 GMT15 January 2021
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was due to visit India from 12-16 January at the initiative of his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for crucial trade and defence talks, which was also slated to be his maiden visit to India since coming to power in 2018.

    Indian foreign ministry has announced the cancellation of crucial visit by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison due to severe and prolonged bushfires. The ministry said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a telephonic conversation with his Australian counterpart offered India’s unstinted support to Australians, who are "bravely facing this unprecedented natural calamity".

    "He (Modi) looked forward to welcoming the Prime Minister of Australia in India on a State Visit at a mutually convenient time later in the year," the statement issued by the ministry on Friday reads.

    While expressing satisfaction at the progress in bilateral relations in recent years, Modi reiterated India’s commitment to strengthen its strategic partnership with Australia.

    Morrison had earlier said that he would continue his trip, describing it as a crucial meeting, despite protests in India over the controversial Citizenship Law. More than 20 people have died in India in violent clashes between the police and protesters over the law, which grants citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from three neighbouring Islamic countries.

    The trip comes amid difficult times for Morrison, as he has been criticised for his climate policy and the government’s response to the bushfire crisis in the country.

    At least 18 people have died in the bushfires that started in September. According to reports, 14.6 million acres have been burned, affecting half a billion animals. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to evacuate after an estimated 1,400 homes were destroyed in New South Wales (NSW). It has been described as the largest relocation out of the region ever, as people have been forced to flee due to food and household supplies running out in remote areas.

    On Thursday, Morrison was heckled by angry locals of the fire-hit NSW town of Cobargo. Angry locals said that they have received no help from him.

    The country faces bushfire situations every year, but this year the crisis is unprecedented due to prolonged a drought and heatwave. 



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