Tharoor for liberalising student visa
New Delhi: Minister of State for External
Affairs Shashi Tharoor on Saturday favoured liberalisation of the
visa system to attract more foreign students, but said
security issues contributed to making the regime restrictive.
Speaking on the issue of marketing India`s higher
education worldwide, Tharoor said his ministry would be in
favour of liberalising the visa regime for students.
"I have also tried to raise my voice on this... My
ministry will be much more in favour of liberalising student
visas, our difficulty alas is with our friends in the Home
Ministry who run the FRRO offices.
"And you can`t entirely blame them because every time
somebody like a David Headley or a Tahawwur Rana gets a
visa... this creates problem," he said.
The Minister said the immediate reflex is tightening of
visa procedures for "every American of Pakistani-origin or
others" that inevitably increases likelihood of a large number
of innocent people being affected, which is "unfortunate".
He said this while responding to the issue of unfriendly
visa procedures and "harassment" of foreign students by
Foreign Regional Registration Offices (FRRO), raised by
Narendra Yadav, Member (Education) Planning Commission.
The total number of foreign students pursuing higher
studies in India is 3,471, with Afghanistan being a major
contributor, sending 1,654 students.
Tharoor said there is urgent need to create additional
capacity to attract more students.
"Our institutions will attract foreign students and also
retain sizeable number of Indian students who go abroad to
study, sometimes in dubious institutions," Tharoor said,
pointing out that India provided cost-effective education and
also had depth of knowledge pool, courtesy Jawaharlal Nehru`s
vision of creating institutions of learning and research.
He also said it was important to facilitate exposure to
students to information about education facilities in India,
and establish such services in consulates, while lauding HRD
Minister Kapil Sibal`s educational reforms, particularly
liberalising of the higher education system.
Acknowledging there was very slow progress on foreign
students coming to India, Tharoor said: "We need to augment
capabilities, implement strong and practical strategy for
effective marketing, make the environment friendly for foreign
students and introduce courses to attract them".
"At any time we have at least 10,000 students from Africa
and another 7,000 to 8,000 Iranians... I am happy to note that
Presidents of Afghanistan and Malawi, have degrees from
India," he said at an education summit organised by Institute
of Marketing and Management and IGNOU.
Increasing interaction between Indian and foreign
universities and exchange of faculties to give Indian teachers
international exposure will help Indian institutions augment
their capacity, he said.
"We also need to ensure degrees and diplomas issued by
our universities are recognised world over" and vice versa, he
said, adding the Ministry of Human Resource Development can
take a cue from the `Incredible India` campaign to launch a
similar campaign in education sector.
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