Things now better for Indian students in Oz: Envoy
Chandigarh: With things turning out to be a "lot calmer" in recent months vis-à-vis Indian students in Australia, Australian High Commissioner to India Peter N. Varghese said that the safety of Indian students there is an issue that is "behind us".
Varghese said the Australian government had taken a series of measures which had led to "things being a lot calmer than they were 12 months ago".
"Look, I think that the issue of safety of Indian students is behind us really. We have taken a series of measures at federal government level, state government level and in relation to our police forces," Varghese told reporters in an interview here.
"All of those measures, which range from law enforcement to registration of educational institutions and to changes to our migration policy - separating out education and migration. I think all of those have helped us to manage this issue and I think that things are a lot calmer now than they were 12 months ago," the envoy said.
There had been a string of attacks on Indian students in Australia over the past two years, causing an uproar in India. Nitin Garg, an Indian student, was fatally stabbed in Melbourne in a race attack that took place in January last year.
Varghese said that External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, who is leaving for Australia Tuesday for a two-day framework dialogue meeting, will be briefed on the issue of safety measures for Indian students in Australia.
"I think there is a recognition by the Indian government that we have taken the matter seriously enough and taken action on it. We would be happy to give Mr. Krishna an update on how things are and a full briefing on the measures that are taken," he said.
"We do regular surveys of attitudes of international students and the most recent surveys have shown that the Indian students in Australia continue to be very positive about their experience in Australia," Varghese asserted. Since a majority of the student community in Australia - which is around 300,000 - is from Punjab, the Australian government sees Punjab as an important place.
"At the people-to-people level, it (Punjab) is very important. We have a large number of student migration from Punjab. Because our trade with India is so dominated by commodities, Punjab is less important on the trading side because you are not a big buyer of coal, copper etc," he said.
Figures show that student migration from India to Australia has dropped by as much as 80 percent in recent months.
"We would not have opened a (trade) office here if we were not interested in expanding the relationship and if we didn`t recognize that it is an important relationship for us."
"In Punjab, at the moment, not much is there on the investment front. The sort of things we are looking at is doing in the agriculture sector. That would involve more Australian technology and expertise than investment. Educational linkages also do not necessarily require investment," Varghese said.
But he added that there could be some investment in the IT (information technology) sector even though it is early days on this front.
"One of the reasons we set up a (trade) office here is that we would like to do some scoping of the opportunities here. We will see if we can make it more specific."
The High Commissioner said that investment between India and Australia has not been as much as the potential is.
"Investment has kind of lagged behind in the economic relationship. I am very keen to see investment in both directions. We are now seeing some substantial Indian investment in Australia in coal which is very good," he said.
"The Australian investment in India is still very low and I think that more than anything else, it reflects on the trade between both countries. The big ticket items in Australian exports to India are all commodities and they don`t generate big investment."
"Over time as the economic relationship base broadens and Australian companies get in other sectors, we will see more Australian investment into India. I want to see that happening more often," the High Commissioner added.
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