India, Australia sign agreement to boost education ties


Melbourne/New Delhi: Despite the attacks on its student community in Australia, India has “not prevented them” from going there, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal said Thursday as the two countries signed an agreement to boost educational cooperation.

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New Delhi wants to take the “relationship forward” with Canberra, Sibal told reporters after signing the pact with Australia’s Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, in Melbourne.

The Joint Ministerial Statement confirms Australia and India’s commitment to expand the current education exchange programme to achieve greater cooperation between the two countries’ schools, higher education, vocational education and training sectors.

“The aim of the ministerial statement is to strengthen what is already a solid partnership with the Indian government and open up more avenues to share expertise in the education arena. Today’s meeting was the result of a commitment made in New Delhi last August to start an annual dialogue between the two ministers,” the Australian high commission in New Delhi said in an official communique.

An India-Australia Education Council comprising experts from both countries will now be set up.

The relations between India and Australia had soured following several attacks on Indian students Down Under. A travel advisory had also been issued to Indian students coming to Australia.

Sibal Thursday told reporters that he believed the attacks on Indian students had declined.

“The fact that I am here suggests we want to take the relationship forward, it does not mean that we are not concerned about what’s happening here. The advisory obviously was given at a point in time when the incidents were at a height… students are still coming to Australia, we have not prevented them,” he was quoted as saying.

“I think the Australian government is taking strong steps in that direction to prevent those things happening.”

A media report said it was recently revealed that international student numbers were down nationally three percent and 12 percent in Victoria. The drop in Indian student numbers in Victorian institutions was 40 percent – from 6,303 to 3,761.

Sibal, who started his two-nation tour April 7, is to also tour New Zealand from April 11. He will return home April 14.

He is accompanied by a delegation of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) led by Rajendra Pawar, chairman NIIT Limited. The other delegates include Girdhar Jessaram Gyani, secretary general, Quality Council of India, and Sanjeev Duggal, chief executive Centum Learning Limited.