India and Austria to sign migration and mobility agreement, shore up ties

During visit to Vienna, Jaishankar to discuss situation in Ukraine, nuclear issues

Updated - January 02, 2023 12:01 pm IST

Published - January 01, 2023 06:05 pm IST - Vienna

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna on January 1, 2023. Photo: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna on January 1, 2023. Photo: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

Close on the heels of similar mobility agreements with France, United Kingdom, Germany and Finland, India will sign a “Comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement” (MMPA) with Austria on Monday during External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to Vienna.

While India has been keen to finalise these agreements with European countries as a stepping stone to resolving issues over the long-pending India-European Union (EU) Free Trade Agreement and facilitating Indian professionals working in these countries, the European countries also see them as a way to curb illegal immigration from India.

“This is a much-needed agreement, especially in view of the sharp increase in illegal migration Austria was confronted with last year, including over 15,000 illegal migrants from India with practically no chance of asylum,” explained Claudia Türtscher, spokesperson to Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, when asked about the MMPA. “The agreement is now a useful tool to combat illegal migration together, as it enables the swift return of illegal migrants.”

In addition, the agreement will regulate multiple entry visas for professionals and student exchange programmes, and will be reviewed regularly by a Joint Working Group (JWG).

Mr. Jaishankar who is on a trip to Cyprus and Austria, attended the famous “New Year’s Concert” of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra together with Mr. Schallenberg on Sunday, and the two Ministers will meet again on Monday for bilateral talks. They also held a combined meeting with Foreign Ministers of Czech and Slovakia, under the “Slavkov” trilateral format for the Central European countries.

On the agenda for bilateral and multilateral talks, the Austrian Foreign Minister’s Spokesperson said, is India’s Presidency of the G-20, as well as “the position of India on the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and its global negative ramifications”. During a visit to Delhi in March, Mr. Schallenberg, one of a number of U.S. and European senior officials who tried to change the Modi government’s position on Russian war in Ukraine, had told The Hindu that the war in Europe would have repercussions for the whole world, and no country could “stay at its sidelines”.

This is the first trip to Austria by an Indian Foreign Minister in 27 years, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement last week, indicating the importance of the visit. Mr. Jaishankar also met with the Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on Sunday, and will meet the Director General of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi on Monday.

Mr. Grossi had earlier interacted with Mr. Jaishankar in 2016, when he was the head of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and worked on proposals for India’s membership application, which is still pending. More recently he has been at the forefront on monitoring the Russian occupation of Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) at Zaporizhzhia where India was amongst countries that expressed concerns over nuclear safety risks. Also of interest for India is the IAEA’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear programme and efforts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Monday’s meeting between Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Schallenberg will be their fifth formal meeting, as apart from bilateral visits, the two also met at the Munich Security Conference, Globsec Bratislava Forum and UN General Assembly.

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