Melbourne: Australia had paid only lip service to Asian engagement and had a shallow impression of India in the past, a minister said in Friday, stressing on the need to rebuild educational ties with the country.
Chris Evans, Australian minister for Tertiary Education, made the comments while addressing a gathering here at an annual conference of Australia India Institute (AII), "Argumentative Indian".
"The recent Government White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century was an occasion for `deep thinking`," he said.
The minister further commented that while Australia`s image had suffered a setback during attacks on Indian students in 2009, it was fair to say Australia had not paid enough attention at the time to student welfare.
However, much had been done since then, Evans, who also looks after skills, science and research, said.
"The ban on Australian uranium sales to India had also become an irritant in relations, but the Gillard government had faced up to the need for change and the issue had been resolved," he said.
Evans said that he hoped education would continue to be a key driver of the strategic relationship between the two countries with 73,000 Indian students in Australia in 2011.
"The government`s response to the White Paper would see the number of Australian students in India rise from the current low figure of less than six hundred, he said, adding that Australia would be a partner in providing skills to 500 million Indians under the age of 25.
His comments came after the release of the White Paper on the Asian Century and the announcement of several initiatives aimed at boosting the number of Australian students undertaking studies in Asia.
These include the Gillard Government`s new USD 37 million AsiaBound grants programme which provides up to USD 6000 for students undertaking short or semester-long study exchanges in India.