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Racist violence against international students in Australia: facing the facts September 19, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Guest authors: Ashutosh Misra and Simon Bronitt

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), the premier research agency in Australia, has recently completed a study of violence against international students. Based on reported crime to police, victimization studies and homicide monitoring data, as well as the data-matching of visa records from the Department of Immigration, the AIC report paints a picture of the scale and profile of crimes of violence (robberies and assaults) against international students in Australia. The impetus for the report stemmed from a spate of attacks on Indian students that received extensive media coverage in Australia and in India, which became the focus of political and diplomatic exchanges between the respective governments in 2009-10.

The report has some reassuring take home messages. First, Australia, relative to other destinations, is a safe place for international students, with lower levels of crime targeting them than other popular student destinations, such as the UK and USA. Homicide is relatively rare in Australia compared with other destinations, and from the AIC’s National Homicide Monitoring Program, it appears that of the ‘eight Indian students killed since 1990, none involved racial vilification or discrimination’. The profile of the crimes reported in the AIC study also showed that international students were vulnerable to attack at certain times and certain places – often working late in service industries (taxi and fast food) and therefore exposed more frequently to alcohol-fuelled violence. These insights allow safety messages for students to be targeted by universities and local police. But the key question, which raised the concerns of the Indian students in 2009, was whether the attacks occurring were racially motivated?

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South Asia Masala recommends September 2, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : India , comments closed

“Delhi drift” Deep political disillusionment in India won’t be solved simply by creating a new anti-corruption czar, writes Robin Jeffrey

Robin Jeffrey begins his Inside Story, 31 August 2011, piece on the problems currently facing Manmohan Singh’s Congress-led coalition government with a reference to the parallel drawn by Bruce Grant between the 1975 Indira Gandhi emergency and the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

This week also sees the release of a book of essays that covers a range of aspects of the India-Australia relationship, India and Australia: Bridging Different Worlds. The book is edited by Brian Stoddart and Auriol Weigold who are both South Asia Masala contributors. Auriol is also one of the editors of SAM, as is another contributor to the collection, Sandy Gordon. Louise Merrington and Christopher Snedden are other SAM contributors whose work appears in the book.

Click here for details.

Reshaping India-Australia Relations July 22, 2011

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Rohit Revo

Rohit Revo is the Editor of  THE INDIAN publication (www.theindian.net.au) and also hosts a blog website at www.rohitrevo.com.au

There has been speculation that the relationship between this region’s largest democracies, India and Australia has lost its political traction and that the Labor government has had a different perception of the relationship, thanks to Kevin Rudd. The post-Howard era has seen a steady decline in interest of the top leadership towards each other. The banal and text book policy approach adopted by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has caused enormous damage to this bilateral relationship, caused Australia to forgo billions of dollars in lost uranium sales and eroded a huge amount of goodwill. His one-dimensional foreign policy fixation towards China has caused more harm than good.

At this moment there is also huge inertia in the Indian foreign ministry to establish a strategic partnership with Australia as it does not want to concentrate its limited foreign policy resources on a relationship which is refusing to peak. India is instead focussing more on US, Europe and Japan. The flurry of visits of Indian ministers into Australia has largely been symbolic and has not yielded any big announcements. The nature and size of partnerships announced during these visits is miniscule as compared to the deals signed by Indian ministers when they visit even smaller European countries.

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Anglo-Indians as part of the Indian diaspora: making a home in Australia May 11, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Features, India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

A different kind of Indian in Australia?

Besides the Afghan cameleers and the Sikhs in the nineteenth century, one of the earliest communities to migrate from India to Australia was the Anglo-Indians. Anglo-Indians comprise one of the largest communities of mixed descent in the world and are most likely the largest single cultural group of Indians in Australia. In this note, I want to show that on the transnational scale, as part of an Indian diaspora, the changing generational needs and changing policy environments can create new longings for the home that has been left behind and in the process give rise to a new politics of identity. My focus is on the diasporic Anglo-Indians in Australia, who, like other diasporic communities, form transnational links, forge and sustain multi-stranded social relations that connect them to the country of origin and those of their residence. As part of the Indian community in Australia, the Anglo-Indians enrich Australian society as much as any other ethnic Indian group and, above all, they bring new sensibilities of mixed race and culture and a historicity into the diasporic policy debate. My hope is that this note would lead to the recognition of huge diversity inherent amongst immigrant Indians. Intellectually, such recognition would lead to a rethinking of Indian-ness in Australia. In terms of policy, understanding the historically formed cultural diversity would allow us specific policy needs that smaller groupings within a broad group might have, within India as well as in Australia. Ien Ang and Jon Stratton have pointed out that Australian multicultural discourse is shaped by the national origins of the migrants who are then given an ethnic identity, not a racial one. People migrating from Indonesia, for example, would all be articulated as Indonesians, without a differentiation between the Dutch and the Indonesians. Such a removal of race from public debate implicitly reaffirms assimilationist ideology and a strong belief in the existence of a mainstream Australian culture. Thus, one policy outcome could be a greater attention to the diversities within the migrant groups.

Who is an Anglo-Indian? The Census of India of 1911 described the Anglo-Indians as a ‘domiciled community’ of mixed descent, who were also described as Eurasians, ‘country-born’ or ‘half-caste’. Indo-Briton was perhaps the first ever generally accepted designation of the community. Subsequently, terms such as Indo-European, east-Indian, Eurasian were used, but they were seen as ambivalent because of their failure in reflecting the British lineage. Disparaging terms were not uncommon and some of them – half-whites, eight-annas, blacky-whites – were widely used in popular parlance. Not only are the two names derogatory, they also indicate the wider resistance towards this community in India. Such racial and cultural prejudice, as noted earlier, arose primarily from political reasons and the social segregation of lives in colonial India. The 1935 Government of India Act defines Anglo-Indians in terms of their paternal ancestry and domicile: ‘An Anglo-Indian is a person whose father or any of whose other male progenitors in the male line is or was of European descent but who is a native of India.’

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India-Australia: skepticism beyond the economics March 17, 2011

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Guest author: Nabeel A. Mancheri, Postdoctoral Associate, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

This article was first posted in East Asia Forum on 16 February 2011.

Recent developments in India-Australia relations indicate that both countries are now rigorously advancing their international partnership. There has been increased engagement between the two, with a greatly expanded diplomatic presence. There are many developments on all fronts — economic, political and strategic — yet deep engagement between the two countries remains elusive for a number of reasons.

Economic relations between Australia and India have improved in recent years. India is now Australia’s third-largest export market and its fifth-largest trading partner. Australia is India’s sixth largest trading partner. In 2009-10, India’s exports to Australia stood at just US$1.38 billion, while imports amounted to a whopping US$12.4 billion, translating into an Indian trade deficit of about US$11 billion with Australia. At the same time Australia’s and India’s relative importance to each other has grown. The share of Australia in India’s imports is 3.5 per cent and Australia exported about 8.1 per cent of its total exports to India and imported around 0.9 per cent of its total imports from India.

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Pankaj Oswal and India-Australia business March 15, 2011

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Brian Stoddart

When Pankaj Oswal arrived in Perth early in the new millennium, along with wife Radhika, the pair was immediately the focus of speculation, curiosity, envy and suspicion in about equal measure.  They were young, obvious, ambitious and daring – he was aiming to create a $1 billion ammonia fertiliser factory on the Burrup Peninsular in the northwest next to Western Australia’s massive natural gas reserves.  The gas would provide the considerable energy needed to create the product.  Oswal swept aside the problem that his site just happened to be home to one of the world’s prime rock art concentrations, while Radhika moved towards creating a worldwide vegetarian restaurant chain.  Together, they became famous for their parties and the general lifestyle of the rich and famous.

It was not all straightforward, though.  There were immediate questions about how a twenty something had the $300 million that allowed him to leverage the huge loans needed to get his enterprise going.  Diligent journalists in both Australia and India lit on the information that he was the grandson of one of the great Ludhiana textile magnates but, even more significantly, the son of Abhey Oswal who had moved from textiles to fertilisers.  Suspicious minds thought the son’s stash might just have emanated from the father’s labyrinthine commercial deals from which some investors emerged much the poorer financially.  Pankaj Oswal, however, consistently denied that source, instead usually citing rich investors/friends. (more…)

Looking west again – to the Indian Ocean and India February 16, 2011

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Auriol Weigold

An article in The Australian, published on 31 March 2010, notes Australia’s inconsistent interest in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) in its headline ‘We must look west to the Indian Ocean …’.  It goes on to remind that Australia should be a ‘pre-eminent country’ in the IOR and notes that a ‘new maritime great game’ is visible as ‘strategic competition between India and China’ grows. These ideas, verging on directives, are drawn from Bateman’s and Bergin’s Australian Strategic Policy Institute Paper, Our Western Front: Australia and the Indian Ocean, launched by Australia’s former Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, on the same day in 2010.  The Australian concluded its article by reporting that Australia’s policies vis-a-vis the Indian Ocean have been ‘relatively opaque and spasmodic’, and should be embedded in the mainstream of foreign policy.

Despite its inconsistent and often neglectful approach to engagement in the Indian Ocean as a whole, Australia has had an historical interest in the Indian Ocean, which is vital to its import and export markets and sea-lines communications. It relies on Indian Ocean sea-routes and access points for its globalised trade, and the ever-increasing importance of security and stability demand deeper engagement: geographically Australia is well-placed to play a prominent role in the Indian Ocean region.

Crew of HMAS Melbourne board a pirated Chinese tanker in the Indian Ocean,  Photo ABC

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Afghanistan: conundrum central February 8, 2011

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Christopher Snedden

Afghanistan provokes many conundrums, but few answers. The most important current question is whether external forces can defeat the Islamically-motivated Afghan Taliban trying to regain control of their fragmented, underdeveloped and war-weary country? Policy makers and military strategists from 48 foreign nations believe so. Accordingly, they have ‘surged’ their International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to 132,000 personnel. And, since President Obama came to power, ISAF—particularly its United States’ component of 90,000 personnel—has been better focused and may be gaining ground.

However, a significant conundrum is to determine the actual ‘state of play’ in Afghanistan. The Taliban, about which we know little, almost certainly overstates its strength and position. Equally, official Western sources may paint a picture rosier than reality. On 3 December, at Bagram Air Base, President Obama stated that ‘Because of the progress we’re making, we look forward to a new phase next year [2011], the beginning of the transition to Afghan responsibility’. This suggested that operations were going well. By contrast, on 26 December, the Wall Street Journal reported that United Nations’ maps showed ‘a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan’ during 2010. Much of southern Afghanistan was still at ‘very high risk’, while the risk in previously ‘low risk’ areas in northern, central and western Afghanistan had increased ‘considerably’. Similarly, in January, a ‘NATO official’ estimated there were ‘up to 25,000’ insurgent fighters, ‘the same as a year ago, before the arrival of an additional 40,000 US and allied troops’. ISAF may not be doing as well as we are led to believe.

President Obama’s remark above about ‘the transition to Afghan responsibility’ also confirmed that ISAF is keen to extract itself from Afghanistan. Accordingly, ISAF is trying to develop the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police so they can take responsibility for Afghanistan’s security. This task is difficult. Low education levels, high attrition rates and Taliban intimidation make these forces’ capabilities questionable. Equally, ISAF needs to succeed in other nation-building activities—which, in a dilemma, it cannot do until it has secured and stabilised the country. These activities include: developing Afghanistan’s economy; enhancing its political and governmental structures; overcoming people’s deep fear of a Taliban takeover after ISAF’s inevitable withdrawal; reducing corruption; and, delivering meaningful aid and infrastructure throughout the country.

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The Australia-India bilateral relationship—understanding its past to advance its future September 9, 2010

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Auriol Weigold

Reprinted from AIIA Policy Commentary August 2010, Looking West: An Indian Ocean Perspective, pp.43–52. Read the full article

We are all too aware of the on-again, off-again nature of the Australia-India bilateral relationship. It has become characterised over time by neglect and blame as an outcome of foreign policy differences. An appreciation of the limits such differences imposed in the past might usefully preface Australia‘s bilateral initiatives when a new Government takes office and once again focuses on an India centered in our vision, rather than peripheral to it.

This paper will look briefly at the legacy left by Prime Ministers Menzies‘ and Nehru‘s foreign policies, based on their individual national values and priorities, demonstrated across the 1950s and beyond, and consequent policy divergences to a point that signaled only the unlikelihood of a high level bilateral relationship emerging. Arguably this legacy continues to interrupt any sense of continuity that recent Australian governments, notably the Rudd Government, have striven for.

A review of Australia‘s policy actions that have attracted blame from India, followed often by periods of neglect by both nations, show a pattern that has persisted. A substantial, strategic move that elevates Australia‘s standing in India may offer the means to construct the meaningful relationship with India that both sides of Australian politics envisage, moving out from trade, aid and soft power agreements.

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John Howard and Australia: India and the World July 6, 2010

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Brian Stoddart

At three levels the current brouhaha surrounding John Howard’s ‘loss’ of the Vice-Presidency within the International Cricket Council curiously, some might say peculiarly, attests to the superficiality of understanding about the workings of the machine.

Cricket itself provides the first level, because the affair has raised the old debate about the mix between sport and politics.  Howard and his supporters argue that the main players in the ICC and its constituent bodies are ‘politicised’ in that they contain current politicians.  India is the clear target here.  Yet Howard himself pointed to his political career and background as a major reason as to why he would have been a good person for the position.  The double standard stands confirmed when it is remembered that Howard’s nomination for the position from Australia and New Zealand emerged only after what was a formal arbitration/selection process chaired by Sir Rod Eddington who seems magically connected to all sides of the political prism (and who also played cricket for UWA and Oxford).  That was a tight contest with Eddington reportedly saying that the only difference between Howard and his opponent, Sir John Anderson of New Zealand, was that the former Prime Minister had “more time” for the task.  It is clear that had Anderson prevailed he would have walked into the Vice-President’s position, and that Howard’s political background has proved a stumbling block. (more…)