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US defence secretary’s trip to India called off due to coronavirus threat

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New Delhi, Mar 12 : US Defence Secretary Mark Esper’s visit to India on March 15-16 has been called off due to the coronavirus threat, Defence Ministry officials said on Thursday.

The trip, during which Esper was supposed to meet his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh, is among the several events being postponed because of the coronavirus infection.

A two-day conference organised by the Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), which was to start from Thursday, has also been postponed due to the COVID-19 threat.

The defence minister and Home Minister Amit Shah were scheduled to attend the conference, which included seminars on a range of security issues in Asia.

“Due to the prevailing global situation with regard to COVID-19, it has been decided to postpone the 21st Asian Security Conference (ASC) to a later date. Fresh dates for the Conference will be conveyed in due course,” the Ministry of Defence think tank said in an email to the participants.

The conference organised by IDSA, now rechristened Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, was to be attended by participants from countries such as the US, Russia, Australia, Vietnam, Sweden, Belgium, Japan and the UK.

Besides this, Milan-2020, the largest multilateral exercise hosted by the Navy to be held from March 18 to 28 in Visakhapatnam, was indefinitely postponed as a precaution.

Another military drill — India Egypt Joint Special Forces exercise 2020 — which was scheduled to be held at Jodhpur from March 11 to 13, has been postponed as well.

The number of coronavirus patients in the country has risen to 73 with 13 fresh cases, including nine from Maharahtra and one each from Delhi, Ladakh and Uttar Pradesh as well as one foreign national, the Union Health Ministry said.