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A (rocky) road to India September 2, 2009

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

Brian Stoddart

While no-one likes an ‘I told you so’ story, it is frequently instructive to remember where we have been in order to assess the strength of where we seem to be going.  That is especially so with the present Indo-Australian relationship, which has been the subject of some recent writings here.

This response is prompted by two iceberg tips that reveal much about why the present circumstances have arisen, and why there is so much cultural misunderstanding.

The first tip concerns a report that Victorian universities are telling a national inquiry into transnational education that a failure to provide international students with local travel concessions is a significant deterrent to recruitment.

The astonishing thing is that this matter has been a criticism of several state governments by universities now for several years.  For example, the Victorian government itself no more than five years ago commissioned a report investigating how the state might increase the numbers of international students coming there.  The consultants duly canvassed university opinion that emphasised a series of support issues that would help bring in more students to boost the state’s economy. (more…)

India and Australia: back to the future August 24, 2009

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

Brian Stoddart

One interesting book on my shelves has some evocative chapter titles: Australia’s Need for Exports; The New India; Is India Stable?; Must India Remain Poor; The Resources of India; India’s Financial Position; What Does India Plan?; Australia’s Trade with India; Australia’s Participation in the New Indian Market. That book might well have been published in the past few months but it is, of course, Bertram Stevens’ New Horizons: a Study of Australian-Indian Relationships published in 1946.

The evocation for me springs from two major sources.

First, Australia does have a long history of interaction with India as we all know. One long-term resident of Madras, for example, recalled watching Australian horses thrown overboard off the southern port and herded towards shore in the 1870s, perhaps at least a hundred years after the ‘Walers’ first appeared in India. Australian racehorses, jockeys, trainers and bookmakers were all prevalent in the later nineteenth century, as were polo players and cricket coaches in the early twentieth. That was without counting missionaries and teachers and business people and all the rest who went there from very early points.

That was transformed a few generations on into a strong academic interest with the line, perhaps, beginning with Sir Harold Bailey who, although born in England, grew up in Western Australia where he trained in linguistics before going back to England where he became pre-eminent in South Asian languages. By the 1960s history and politics had become the prime focus and Australia was a world centre for India expertise.

But that leads to the second evocation, which is: how did it all go so wrong? We now have columnists telling us to get interested in India when we have already cycled at least a couple of academic generations through the system and having failed to convince successive governments of what Stevens was telling us over sixty years ago: India is important!


The mystery behind the student débâcle August 2, 2009

Posted by sandygordon in : Gordon, Sandy, India , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Problems with overseas students are not new. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke famously cried over the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and agreed to let 10,000 Chinese students stay. Many of them were on dubious short courses and on visas of doubtful provenance. Nevertheless, those who stayed have mostly made excellent citizens.

Nor are the twin problems of dodgy training providers and violence against overseas students unique to Australia. According to the BBC, “Tens of thousands of foreign students may have entered the UK to study at bogus colleges … before the system of accreditation was tightened up this year”. That system was tightened up not because of concerns about providers, but on grounds of security. Ten Pakistani ‘students’ suspected of terrorism were found to be ‘attending’ colleges for various short courses that were clearly little more than an immigration scam.

As to violence against Asians, one has only to recall the wave of so-called ‘Paki-bashings’  perpetrated by extreme-right louts in the UK and to a lesser extent Canada since the 1960s to realise that Asians in Australia are not necessarily any more at threat than they are in other Western countries. Then there were the anti-Asian riots in Burnley and elsewhere in the Midlands in 2001. Australia has experienced nothing on this scale – certainly not the Cronulla riots. In Russia, Asian students are regularly hunted down and attacked by overtly racist, skinhead gangs. Many have been killed in these encounters.

None of this, of course, excuses Australians or their government for what has happened to overseas students here.  But it does raise an important and hitherto un-asked question about India.  (more…)