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PM Modi’s Historic Austria Visit: Here’s What Happened during Indira And Nehru’s Trips

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Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File pics

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File pics

We travel back in time and look at the previous three visits by Indian PMs to Austria: two by Indira Gandhi and one by Jawaharlal Nehru

Prime Minister Narendra Modi after concluding his two-day Russia visit will depart to Austria, marking another historic moment in India’s diplomatic outlook. Historic because this will be the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister in 41 years. Modi’s visit will revolve around further agreements between India and Austria, particularly the India-Austria startup bridge commenced in February 2024 with an aim to boost startup cultures in both countries.

We travel back in time and look at the previous three visits by Indian PMs to Austria: two by Indira Gandhi and one by Jawaharlal Nehru.

INDIRA GANDHI’S VISIT IN 1983

Shortly after her arrival in Vienna on June 19, 1983, a local newspaper caricatured Gandhi warmly greeting Chancellor Fred Sinowatz, humorously suggesting they were unfamiliar faces to each other.

However, within three days, both leaders engaged in substantive discussions on global economics, Afghanistan, and bilateral relations. Chancellor Sinowatz praised Gandhi’s political foresight and leadership of the non-aligned movement.

The visit led to the establishment of the Indo-Austrian Economic Commission, set to meet in October to boost bilateral economic ties.

Discussions also included a major Austrian steel project in India and joint ventures in third countries, along with a supply of 1,500 horses for Indian mountain troops.

Dubbed the “Vienna Waltz”, Gandhi’s visit was a prelude to the West Europe-India dialogue congress in Alpbach, attended by over 500 delegates, including 150 from India. Gandhi emphasised global peace and urged redirecting military spending to Third World development.

Reactions varied at the congress, with some criticising Gandhi’s impact on Indian institutions. Despite differences, the tour successfully increased interest in India among European nations, aligning with Gandhi’s goals.

INDIRA’S VISIT IN 1971 AMID IMPENDING WAR

Amid escalating military tensions between India and Pakistan, with increasing troop movements along their shared border, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi continued her tour of Western countries. On October 27, 1971, during her three-day official visit to Austria, she met President Franz Jonas in Vienna.

Gandhi reiterated that only a political solution acceptable to the people of East Pakistan could resolve the crisis, describing the situation as “extremely dangerous”.

The visit to Austria was part of her broader mission to brief Western leaders on the conflict between India and Pakistan, as well as the internal strife between the Pakistani government and the secessionist movement in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan). During her meeting with President Jonas, Gandhi was introduced to top Austrian officials. She later held a 90-minute discussion with Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky.

After this meeting, Gandhi highlighted the dire refugee crisis, noting that between thirty thousand and forty-two thousand refugees from East Pakistan were crossing into India daily. She emphasised the perilous nature of the situation and reiterated that a political settlement acceptable to the people of East Pakistan was essential for easing the crisis. Gandhi, who had arrived in Vienna from Brussels, was on the second leg of her six-nation tour in Europe.

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU’S VISIT IN JUNE 1955

Jawaharlal Nehru visited Austria in 1955, the same year in which the country gained independence. Nehru’s Austria visit was part of his larger East European tour of the USSR, Yugoslavia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Italy.

The visit by Nehru is remembered for his address to the Vienna reception on June 27, 1955, where he remarked that all countries must come together to prevent any escalation towards a war. He made this statement just a month after Austria had signed the agreement on Austrian Neutrality in the midst of the Cold War period.



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