Saturday, April 10, 2010

India, Oz sign major deal to expand education partnership

Stating that they are at an "exciting time" in their ties, India and Australia today signed a major education deal to take their relationship forward after a series of vicious attacks on Indian students, including the murder of a 21-year-old youth. The deal was signed as Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal met Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard here, their second meeting in six months. Under the deal, the two sides agreed to set up a joint education council and to extend exchanges in the field of education.

"India and Australia are at an exciting time in their relationship, a Joint Ministerial Statement said, saying that people-to-people contacts are at the heart of the bilateral relationship. Students studying in both countries play an important role in building bridges of friendship and understanding and are a significant resource for future development of the relationship," the statement said.

Sibal and Gillard, who is also Australia's education minister said their governments attached high priority to the safety and well being of students as they played an important role in the knowledge partnership envisaged between the two countries. "The fact that I am here suggests we want to take the relationship forward, it does not mean that we are not concerned about what's happening here," Sibal told reporters. An India-Australia Education Council comprising experts from both sides will be formed and a joint ministerial statement has been signed to expand the education exchange programme.

Over 100 cases of attacks on Indians were reported last year in Australia, including the murder of 21-year-old Nitin Garg, straining ties between the two countries. They also led to the Indian government issuing a travel advisory asking students to exercise caution while in Australia, and were followed by a flurry of high-profile visits by Australian dignitaries, including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, to India. On the issue of the travel advisory, Sibal said: "The advisory obviously was given at a point in time when the incidents were at a height... students are still coming to Australia, we have not prevented them".

Sibal and Gillard were meeting after six months and the former said he believed the attacks on Indians had declined. "I think the Australian government is taking strong steps in that direction to prevent those things happening," Sibal said.

Source: The Economic Times, April 9, 2010

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