On the weekend, during a break at the G20 summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other world leaders got a taste of Australia's “koala diplomacy”.  Demonstrating that real men aren't afraid to display their softer side, Modi beamed in avuncular fashion as he picked up the cuddly creature ‒ an image that was immediately tweeted to the world by the ministry of external affairs.

He wasn't the only Master of the Universe to give the grey marsupial a squeeze. US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and even the steely Russian President Vladmir Putin all went a little gooey as they played with Jimbelung, whose name means "friend".

Jimbelung and a second koala that were deployed at the G20 meeting were from Queensland's Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, had been in training for a long time to deal with the visitors.

“As little trainees, they don’t do any more than 10 minutes a day,” said Karen Nilsson, head koala keeper at Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.  “Even as an adult, they won’t be held for more than half an hour a day and after three days, they have to have a day off where they are not held at all.”

Koalas are herbivores native to Australia. They feed on a diet of special eucalyptus leaves and can sleep for up to 20 hours a day.

Their keeper had some advice for anyone wishing  to hug a koala. "The biggest tip is to pretend you’re a tree," Nilsson said. "When you’re holding a koala, stay nice and still, give them good support under their bottoms and when they know they aren’t going to fall, they are quite happy for you to give them pats and cuddles."

After her appearance at the G20 summit, Jimbelung will continue her diplomatic efforts: she is being sent as a gift to a wildlife park in Japan.