The Portugal-India bilateral summit which had been planned to take place during Portugal’s presidency of the Council of the EU has been postponed until the leaders involved can attend in person, Portugal’s minister of foreign affairs confirmed on Tuesday (5 May).
Augusto Santos Silva was testifying to a hearing of the European affairs committee of Portugal’s parliament, in reply to a question from Bruno Dias, a member for the Communist Party, on the bilateral summit that had been announced for the coming weekend in Porto.
Saturday will see an EU-India Leaders’ Meeting, as it is being termed, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “participating by videoconference”, Santos Silva said.
He noted that the epidemiological situation in India “has worsened considerably” and that Portugal is providing support through the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism.
India has now exceeded a cumulative 20 million coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic and is among the countries with the highest number of related deaths, relative to population.
Modi has been the target of opposition criticism for asking authorities in Indian states to only consider lockdowns as a “last option”.
Modi is resisting pressure to return to lockdown after his government last year enforced a nationwide lockdown with no notice – triggering a humanitarian crisis as migrant workers in the cities fled mainly on foot to rural areas.
Nevertheless, several states – including some governed by his own Bharatiya Janata Party – are ignoring Modi’s call and imposing restrictions.
Last week, television channels and social media in India were flooded with images of overcrowded crematoria and hospitals running out of medical oxygen.
According to official sources, the country – which has a population of 1.3 billion – has recorded 222,408 deaths associated with COVID-19 and 20.3 million confirmed cases of the virus since the pandemic began. However, some experts believe that the real figures could be much higher.
[Edited by Josie Le Blond]