Bangalore, Nov 19: Prime Minister Narendra Modi amused members of the Austrlian Parliament when he said he was the third head of government to address them in a week and that could be a way of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's way of shirt fronting them.
Everybody present in the joint session, including Australian Prime Minister Abbott, appreciated Modi's joke.
But what is the meaning of 'shirt fronting' and why did the word amuse everybody?
The word 'shirt fronting' is an Australian term meaning "a head-on charge aimed at bumped an opponent to the ground" (Macquarie dictionary). It is a very popular term in the Australian Football League (AFL). It is a rule for a front-on challenge that knocks down an opponent in the game that is very much physical.
See video of shirt fronting in AFL:
The term, which was also used by the Sydney Morning Herald, is an old one in football but gaining grounds in diplomatic circles. The word gained an edge particularly after the soft face-off between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the western leaders at the G20 Summit in Brisbane over the crisis in Ukraine that saw Putin departing from the occasion early.
Short fronting in diplomacy hence means giving a warm welcome to a powerful world leader and then confront him over a serious issue. PM Abbott took a tough stand vis-a-vis Russia over the death of 38 nationals of his country after a Malaysian plane was shot down in the territory of Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists.
British Prime Minister David Cameron also used the term while addressing the Australian Parliament last week, saying he remembered shirt fronting when he saw Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop advancing towards him during a summit in Italy. But he found soon that Bishop was about to offer his country cooperation to treat Ebola in Sierra Leone in Africa.