Singh to hold talks with Australian PM today

Singh to hold talks with Australian PM today

As Rudd on Wednesday began his three-day visit to India, New Delhi reiterated that the safety and security of Indian students in Australia was a matter of “highest importance” and it was “unfortunate” that such incidents had recurred recently. In his meeting with Rudd, Singh is likely to stress that Canberra needs to do more to stop such attacks.

A Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesman on Wednesday said New Delhi had conveyed its concerns to Canberra “at the highest level”. He said that it was important that the steps taken by the authorities were effective.

 There have been about 30 incidents of racial attacks on Indian students in Australia since May. The latest victim was 22-year-old Sai Ratan Tiwari, who was assaulted in Melbourne by a group of Australians last Sunday.

Tiwari hails from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh and is currently a student of Ballarat University in Australia’s Victoria province. The incident had brought the spotlight back on the issue of safety of Indian students in Australia.

Singh had a few months back spoken to Rudd over phone over the issue. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna who visited Australia in August also took up the issue with his counterpart Stephen Smith, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard as well as Rudd himself.
“The Australian government has assured us that it follows a policy of zero tolerance towards such incidents,” said Vishnu Prakash, Joint Secretary (External Publicity) of the MEA.

Krishna and Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal will assist Singh during his meeting with Rudd on Thursday.

Free trade agreement

The two prime ministers are also expected to discuss ways to enhance economic ties between India and Australia. A joint study group is currently studying the feasibility of a India-Australia Free Trade Agreement and is expected to submit its report by the end of this year or early next year.

Prakash said that India-Australia bilateral trade quantum grew from Australian $3.6 billion in 2002 to more than Australian $21 billion in 2008-09.