Explained: Why Prime Minister Narendra Modi Is Visiting Austria After Russia

Explained: Why Prime Minister Narendra Modi Is Visiting Austria After Russia

Austria used to be a great world power in the 19th century but it isn't a major global power now. So why has PM Modi chosen to visit Austria after Russia? Read on to know.

Manas JoshiUpdated: Friday, July 12, 2024, 10:14 AM IST
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) arrived in Vienna on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg received him at the airport. | ANI

For many, even those usually in the know of things, PM Narendra Modi's visit to Austria perhaps came out of nowhere. When it comes to Europe, aspirational imagination of Indians doesn't go beyond UK, France, Germany and other powerhouse countries. So why Modi chose Austria, especially after visiting Russia is a little riddle not everyone can solve.

Free Press Journal tells you why the Indian PM chose the country.

A non-NATO nation

Austria is part of the European Union (EU) but not of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Modi's Russia visit, and a meet with Putin complete with the former's signature hug has been a major political statement in the world on the backdrop of the Ukraine war. India and Russia have deep and comprehensive ties since the Cold War times so its not uncommon for an Indian prime minister to visit Russia.

But right when Russia faces global isolation over its war in Ukraine, Indian PM's Russia visit is a significant development.

If after Russia, Modi chose to visit a European country which is a NATO member, the visit had potential of creating optics that would make the Russians unhappy. NATO, a military alliance, was formed by the US and its allies specifically to counter Russia and the latter is fiercely opposed to its expansion in Europe and in former Soviet countries.

Russia dogged opposition to NATO expansion is one of the reasons it invaded Ukraine. By choosing to visit Austria, PM Modi, and in turn India, may be symbolically trying to pacify Russia.

Also, PM Modi has arrived in Austria at a time when NATO summit is going on in Washington. A visit to a non-NATO, but European country gives Indian diplomats ample space to do a balancing act during negotiations with countries around the world.

Nehru's role in formation of Austria

India's tryst with Austria goes back to the Nehru era. During the Second World War, Austria was occupied by allied powers. After defeat of Nazi Germany, talks began to re-establish Austria as a sovereign, independent country. But Soviet Union, which played a huge part in German defeat, was wary about Austrian statehood as it feared re-emergence of Nazi elements after withdrawal of the allied forces. There was a deadlock in the talks on Austrian statehood over this matter.

At the time, India has already established close ties with Soviet Union. Karl Gruber, the then foreign minister of Austria requested Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to use India's influence with the Soviets to convince them to take the talks ahead. Nehru then mediated between the two parties and the talks ultimately resulted in re-establishment of independent Austria following the Second World War.

Nehru's important role has been acknowledged by Gruber in his memoirs in 1976.

Ties without any trouble

India's ties with Austria are trouble-free with no major matters impeding the bilateral dialogue. There is room for improvement of course, like Austria considers

greater Indian role in United Nations Security Council to be of importance. But an unequivocal support for India's bid for permanent seat at the UNSC is something that hasn't comprehensively forthcoming.

However, the general mood of the two countries has been very good vis-a-vis bilateral ties.

Opposed to Ukraine war, but not a staunch Russia critic

Austria has voiced its concerns about ongoing war in Ukraine. However, it is not a fierce critic of Russia like other European countries: France, UK and others. This offers India a chance to strike a middle ground when optics are concerned.

People connect

Austria is home to more than 30,000 Indians. In addition to that, 25,000 Indian tourists visit Austria each year as tourists.

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