Cyclone Phyan forces Rudd to cancel Mumbai trip, undertakes surprise visit to troops in Afghanistan

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New Delhi/Kabul, Nov.11 (ANI): Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has cancelled his trip to Mumbai because of Cyclone Phyan,an ABC News report said.

Rudd,however, will visit New Delhi for a day and a half, where the Indian leadership is expected to re-emphasize its concerns about race-motivated attacks on Indian students in Australia.

A spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said on Wednesday that New Delhi will give top priority to this issue during the bilateral meetings scheduled for Thursday. The two sides, he said, would also look for ways to enhance strategic and trade ties during this first visit by the Australian Prime Minister since he assumed office last year.

Prior to his arrival in New Delhi later this evening, Rudd undertook a surprise visit to the Tarin Kowt base in southern Afghanistan to meet Australian troops deployed there as part of the NATO-led offensive against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

According to ABC News, Rudd had visited Australian troops at the same base in December 2008. Today's visit was kept under wraps due to security fears, and was undertaken because Rudd wanted to spend Remembrance Day with Australian troops.

Rudd's visit came hours after an Australian soldier was wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

Australia currently has about 1,500 troops in southern Uruzgan province.

His visit to India follows efforts by a parade of state and federal government ministers who have tried in recent months to repair damage to the international student sector, after a spate of violent attacks in Melbourne and Sydney seemingly directed at Indian students.

The recent collapse of international colleges and reports of unscrupulous education agents ripping off international students has also caused tension between the two countries.

One international security expert says Australia has long ignored its economic and strategic relationship with India and Mr Rudd's visit should be focused on that.

Program director for international security at the Lowy Institute, Rory Medcalf, says Canberra has neglected the subcontinent but the feeling has been mutual.

"The real challenge is to take it to a new level in terms of strategic trust, diplomatic cooperation, and I don't think we're anywhere near our potential on those fronts yet," he said.

"India has tended to see Australia through a couple of very outdated lenses. It has seen Australia as eventually an appendage of the United States or it has seen Australia as some sort of afterthought in Asia.

"I think for a long time India has just simply not understood and has not appreciated how much Australia has to offer."

Meanwhile, Rudd's wife Therese Rein is already in India visiting a kindergarten in the slums of Mumbai.

She braved pouring rain to take books and educational toys to the 24 children at the kindergarten, known locally as Muskaan, which means "smile" in Hindi. (ANI)

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