“Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi had a telephone conversation today with the Prime Minister of Australia H. E. Mr. Scott Morrison,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a press release. “Prime Minister Modi conveyed his heartfelt condolences on behalf of all Indians and on his own behalf on the damage to life and property in Australia due to severe and prolonged bushfires.” Modi also offered support to Australia and the Australian people, the press release said.
“Expressing his satisfaction at the progress in bilateral relations in recent years, Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s commitment to strengthen its strategic partnership with Australia,” the press release added. “He stated that to this end, he looked forward to welcoming the Prime Minister of Australia in India on a State Visit at early mutual convenience.”
Morrison’s visit was due to begin on January 13, PTI reported. Modi and Morrison were expected to hold bilateral talks on several matters. Earlier on Friday, Morrison had said he was “inclined” to cancel his trip to India, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Morrison on Saturday called up 3,000 Australian Defence Force reservists who will work with communities in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, the newspaper reported. At least 23 people have been killed so far in the bushfires, and 1,500 homes destroyed, The Australian reported.
As many as 148 bushfires are burning in New South Wales, and 12 of them have now been declared emergency-level. The state of Victoria, on the other hand, has declared 14 fires as emergency-level.
“We are now in a position where we are saying to people it’s not safe to move, it’s not safe to leave these areas,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said. “We are in for a long night and I make no bones about that. We are yet to hit the worst of it.”