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Australia–India relations and the economy of ideas March 14, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Maclean, Kama , comments closed

Kama Maclean

This article appeared in the most recent edition of the East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Ideas from Indiaand on East Asia Forum 9 March 2012.

At the Sydney Cricket Ground on 5 January 2012, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard spoke confidently about the upswing in Australia–India relations – which had been strained since the violent attacks on Indian students in 2009 – citing cricket as the ‘common language’ of the relationship.

In the closing days of 2011, Gillard had also helped to remove an important irritant in the bilateral relationship as she championed and pushed through a change to Australian Labor Party policy, which had precluded the sale of uranium to India.

Despite these developments, there is an urgent need to reimagine the Australia–India relationship, emphasising mutual exchange and collaboration as the means of engagement. The economy of ideas – of education, and of research and development – hold enormous potential here.

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The growth of private English-medium schools in Almora February 28, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India , comments closed

Mark Jones

The Kumaon is the little patch of the Himalaya tucked up where India, Tibet and Nepal all meet in a tangle of green hills, plunging valleys and icy peaks a few hundred kilometres Northeast of Delhi. The geographic and cultural heart of the region is the old hill town of Almora that straggles along a spur at about 1500 meters that runs off from a higher forest clad massif. The icy peaks of the great Himalaya can be seen from many places around town.

Almora is centred on a flagstone paved pedestrian market lined with many medieval buildings featuring elaborately carved wooden facades. Off the market runs a maze of alleys and galleries that bustle with life. Forest and farmland fringe the town. Almora is far from a pristine museum piece, but for those of you who have visited the Himalaya, think of it a miniature blend of old Kathmandu and old Shimla.

I have been lucky enough to be a frequent visitor to Almora over the years and regard it as in some ways my second home. I have seen it grow and change, watched the arrival of cars, satellite television, mobile phones, the internet and felt it move from isolation to integration with the global world. One of the biggest institutional changes I have noticed, particularly over the past decade, is the mushrooming of private English-medium schools. They seem to have sprouted up just about everywhere.

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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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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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Australia still high on India’s radar March 26, 2010

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

Guest Author: Rupakjyoti Borah, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

This article first appeared on the National Times website www.nationaltimes.com.au

Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has just returned from a three-day visit to India, where he reiterated the view that Australia has no tolerance for racist attacks.

He assured Indians that attacks on them here do not reflect modern Australia, which is a tolerant, multicultural society.

The assurance comes not a day too soon, amid reports of many Indian students having cancelled their plans to study Down Under since the spate of violent attacks. There was a 46 per cent drop in the number of Indians applying for student visas for Australia in the four months between July and October last year on the same period in 2008, according to Immigration Department data.

While the news of death of three-year-old Gurshan Singh Channa, who was visiting Australia with his family, has shocked India, making the front pages of almost all major daily newspapers, the Indian External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna has advised caution. He said he was still waiting for a report from Australian authorities on the cause of Gurshan’s death.

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Australia–India: reimagining the relationship March 4, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Jeffrey, Robin , comments closed

Robin Jeffrey

Reprinted from Inside Story. Read the full article

The arrival of 100,000 Indian students in the past five years is the biggest thing to happen to relations between the Australian land mass and the Indian subcontinent since the 1790s. That’s when the Campbell family started trading between Kolkata (Calcutta) and Sydney. Scottish-born Robert Campbell later migrated from India to Australia, where he built the first “bungalow,” became “a leading public figure” and earned a long entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Similar happy outcomes, I hope, lie in the future for many of the students from India who are putting substance into the puzzling 220-year relationship between their country and Australia. You have to look forward to good things, because some very bad things have happened in the past couple of years. When people are murdered, attacked and abused, and when individuals are picked on because they are obvious and alone, a nasty side of Australian society is revealing itself.

As a result, we are at a crucial turning point in the story of Australia and its ties with India. The harrowing tale of the past year can foreshadow the broader, deeper relationship whose absence has puzzled analysts for years. But thought, effort and imagination will be needed to bring a positive ending to an anguished chapter.

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Curry bashing? A Racist Australian Underbelly and the Education Industry February 6, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : D'Costa, Bina, Features, India, South Asia - General , comments closed

Bina D’Costa

Nitin Garg had arrived in Australia from Jagraon, in the northern Indian state of Punjab, expecting a promising future. Three years later, as a permanent resident and with a postgraduate degree in Commerce he left for India in a body bag. By the time the next ‘breaking news’ occurs, his violent death will be forgotten. But for his mother, his 98 year old grandfather and his siblings, Nitin’s violent stabbing at West Footscray in Melbourne will be forever remembered with the tears of losing a loved one and the guilt for making the decision to send him to the West, which is assumed to be safer than India. Nitin and perhaps his whole family’s future relied on his endurance, even if dreadfully lonely, in an alien metropolis. The south-eastern state of Victoria, one of the most multicultural locations in the world, is where 21 year old Nitin died alone on 2 January 2010. Violent deaths and assaults like his stabbing, racially motivated or not, have consequences, not only in political terms but for personal lives. (more…)

Australia-India relations: looking for respect? December 4, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Brewster, David, India , comments closed

David Brewster

Auriol Weigold in ‘A media-driven view of the Australia-India relationship‘  has captured well the type of difficulties that Australia is likely to face in trying to develop a closer political relationship with India.

Weigold highlights the types of issues which many in New Delhi (and not just the Indian media) see as inhibiting the further development of the relationship. She nominates: Australia’s neutral stance on India’s border dispute with China; Australia’s failure to join the proposed Quadrilateral dialogue in 2007; and Australia’s refusal to supply uranium to India. There is some value in considering each of these issues in turn in order to understand what they really mean for both India and Australia.

First, is the question of Australia’s position on the long-running Sino-Indian border dispute. While India naturally wants as much international support as it can get in its dispute with China, it is difficult to see how Australia would have any interest in taking a position on an argument over the validity of colonial-era territorial claims. There would be significant costs to Australia from inserting itself into this dispute between these two Asian giants – for what gain?

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Students: Canberra views – metropolitan reality November 29, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Stoddart, Brian , comments closed

Brian Stoddart

Amidst the hubbub of the federal Opposition political ‘meltdown’, the first report into the uproar over international student welfare of a few months ago slipped quietly into view.  Sadly, it will do little if anything to calm the nerves of students themselves, current or prospective, and its recommendations do nothing but tinker with the present settings that are in many ways the root of the problem.

The main lesson is that Australia’s politicians and their public servants seemingly know little if anything about the inner workings of what they keep trumpeting as Australia’s third biggest export.  Provocatively, it might be said that the Canberra collective knows far more about the few hundred political irritants known as asylum-seekers than they do about the now almost 300,000 fee-paying international students who have entered the country legally and voluntarily and who have the potential to boost national productivity at a time when such stimulus is greatly needed.

As a case in point, the terms of reference for the report specifically framed the Indian student experience, yet nowhere in the document are the number, scope and level of Indian students detailed even though they are now the second largest single group.  That points also to a situation where for this committee all international students are the same.  At a superficial level that is true in that basic services and support need to be guaranteed, but as even this report suggests the cultural specifics related to any group need careful attention.

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A media-driven view of the Australia-India relationship November 25, 2009

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Auriol Weigold

With a bilateral relationship that is barely warm according to the Indian media, Mr Rudd’s first visit to New Delhi in mid-November advocating a stronger relationship with India was greeted by a hostile press and headlines such as The Times of India’s on 11 November: “Aussie PM to arrive on damage control”.  A comment in the same newspaper proposed that Rudd had a “formidable task” in laying the basis for a strategic relationship between the two nations.

The Sydney Morning Herald echoed this message a few days later, adding that the “stop-start” progress of the past had to be overcome.   The Rudd Government stated early in its period in government that it was committed to engagement with India, but Canberra appears to have chalked up a negative score in the Indian media since its election, and this is not a new problem.

Over time Australia has ignored India for lengthy periods and this has been reciprocated, casting a long shadow over the bilateral relationship since the early days of Indian independence. A shadow never quite dissipated, the right signals proving elusive, the right moment to engage substantially never quite there. (more…)