Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unlikely to attend in person the 16th annual India-European Union summit in Portugal next month in the wake of a raging Covid-19 crisis at home. He may also avoid the scheduled bilateral visit to France in May, government sources have said.
The India-EU summit is scheduled for May 8 in Porto, the second-largest city of Portugal. PM Modi may make an appearance via videoconferencing, a source from the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union told Publico, a Portuguese language daily.
"The Porto summit, which must now be mainly cyberspace, is one of the priorities of the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU, at a time when Europe is looking for alternatives to China," the newspaper said in a report yesterday.
The 15th India-EU summit took place virtually amidst the Covid pandemic last July. Speaking at the event, PM Modi sought an "action-oriented" agenda to expand ties between India and the 27-nation EU within a stipulated time frame.
The EU as a whole was India's largest trading partner in 2018. India's bilateral trade with the grouping in 2018-19 stood at $115.6 billion with exports valued at $57.17 billion and imports at $58.42 billion.
PM Modi's France visit next month was scheduled for after the India-EU summit. Given the circumstances, this, too, is likely to be dropped for now. He last visited the country in 2019.
British Premier Boris Johnson had earlier cancelled his April 25 visit to India in the wake of the second wave of the pandemic sweeping the country over the past few weeks. He will instead hold a virtual meeting with PM Modi later this month.