Indian students will be protected: Oz

Friends External Affairs Minister S M Krishna with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Cairns on Friday. pti

“I am convinced of the assurances provided by the Australian side,” he said after discussions with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his counterpart Stephen Smith on the sidelines of the Pacific Island Forum in this northern Australian city.

Krishna, who is on a five-day visit to Australia, said he has come here to get the assurances at the highest levels so that every Indian student’s welfare is protected by the government of Australia.

“I am glad to say that Prime Minister Rudd and Foreign Minister Smith have both assured me that the process is well under way to look into all the issues and put measures into place to resolve them,” said Krishna, the first senior leader to visit Australia to convey India’s concerns on the student issue.

At least 22 Indian students have been attacked in this country in the past three months, which has threatened Australia’s US$ 13 billion international education industry. Australia is home to over 95,000 Indian students.

“The relationship between the two sides have matured and such small irritants which have taken place in the last three months will not upset it,” Krishna said.

The External Affairs Minister said India was “deeply concerned” about the safety and security of its students in Australia.

“Any problem faced by them causes great concern not only amongst the wider Indian community in Australia but also back home in India,” he said.

Krishna said recent measures undertaken and further proposed to be undertaken by Australia, both at the federal as well as the state levels, to address these concerns have been useful.

It is important to ensure that the proposed measures are followed through and result in “a qualitatively improved experience on the ground for our students in Australia,” he said,  while insisting that Indian students must receive good education and that he had no doubt Australia would ensure it.

Clarifying Australia’s stand on the student issue, Foreign Minister Smith said Australia continues to be a safe and secure destination for overseas students.

Bilateral ties
On the bilateral ties, Krishna said the two sides have agreed to work towards taking their relationship to the level of strategic partnership. “Our relationship already encompasses diverse areas that can act as building blocks for such a partnership.”

Australian Foreign Minister Smith said that Canberra wanted to take the relations with India to the frontline.

“We spoke (about) all the aspects of bilateral issues during our meeting,” he said.

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