Australian deputy PM to visit India


Sydney : Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard will visit India later this month to take its relationship with New Delhi to “a higher level”.

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Gillard will leave for a five-day trip Aug 30, paving the way for a visit by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd later in the year, his first to India since coming to power in 2007, The Age reported Friday.

The Rudd government flagged India as an important element of its foreign policy agenda but two previous attempts by him to visit had to be aborted.

Gillard said her visit would strengthen ties with a vitally-important economic partner.

“The government is committed to taking its relationship with India to a higher level and engaging with India on a long-term, strategic basis,” she was quoted as saying.

Her visit will take her to New Delhi and Chennai.

She plans to meet Kapil Sibal, the minister for human resource development and other government officials.

She is also scheduled to meet Indian students who have studied in Australia.

“(We) will discuss the government’s recent moves to improve the quality of education for overseas students in Australia,” Gillard said.

Gillard’s visit comes in the backdrop of an uproar in India over a string of assaults on Indian students in Australia. Nearly 100,000 students from India are enrolled in Australian universities.

Australia’s education sector is concerned it may witness a sharp drop in international students due to adverse media publicity following the attacks on Indian and other foreign students over the past three months.