Be discreet in selecting Oz schools, says SMK

Last Updated 07 January 2010, 19:37 IST

Amid diplomatic tension between New Delhi and Canberra over persistent attacks on Indian students in Australia, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna on Thursday advised parents to be ‘discreet’ while choosing educational institutions and courses of studies Down Under for their children.

Talking to media persons after a brief informal meeting with Peter Varghese, Canberra’s envoy to New Delhi, on the sidelines of a book-launch event, the External Affairs minister virtually advised Indian students not to go to Australia to pursue frivolous courses.

“I had my own doubts about Indian students going to Australia to pursue higher studies. I can understand if they are going for specialised or high technology courses at institutions at the level of IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) or other such institutes of excellence,” said Krishna, when he was asked to comment on the recent killing of Punjabi student Nitin Garg in Melbourne.

“But,” he went on, “I was shocked to see students had gone to Australia to pursue courses that they do not need to go for, like hairstyling.”“There are any number of excellent institutes in India – in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. I would suggest to parents that they should be discreet in choosing higher education institutions for their children,” said Krishna.

The External Affairs minister made the remark at a time when Canberra is pursuing a damage-control campaign in the wake of a string of allegedly racial attacks on Indian students in Australia and trying to salvage the country’s image as a safe destination preferred by students around the world for quality education.

The number of Indians applying for student visas to Australia has plummeted by 46 per cent between July and October last year, if compared to the numbers during the corresponding months in 2008. Australia witnessed an overall drop of 26 per cent in the student visa applications worldwide.

Indians – numbering over 90,000 – are the second largest group of overseas students in Australia, and the drop in the number of fresh enrolment has sent the alarm bells ringing for the country’s 17 billion dollar international education industry.
The killing of Garg on January 2 prompted India to issue a travel advisory, apprising the Indian students of the perils of studying in Australia, particularly Melbourne.
Krishna had also strongly condemned the killing of the 25-year-old accountancy student from Punjab on Sunday and had also warned about the bearing the persistent attacks on Indians in Australia could have on the bilateral relations between Canberra and New Delhi.

Australian High Commissioner Varghese on Wednesday quoted his country’s acting Foreign Minister Simon Crean stating that reactions to the killing of Garg had to be measured and that the Government in Canberra would take all necessary measures to ensure the security of students from India and other countries.

Meanwhile, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi on Thursday said that New Delhi was putting diplomatic pressure on Canberra to ensure that the culprits responsible for the attacks on Indians in Australia were caught and punished.
Ravi received a letter from Rob Hulls, the acting Premier of Australian State of Victoria – the epicenter of the string of racist attacks on Indians since mid-2009.
Hulls in his letter detailed about the steps being taken by the police and other agencies in Victoria to protect Indians from such attacks in future.

(Published 07 January 2010, 13:14 IST)

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