NEW DELHI: Australian PM Kevin Rudd’s message to India was clear that Australia remained a safe destination
for Indian students. Mr Rudd said
his government was committed to using the “full force” of law to protect Indian students.
“They have been criminal attacks targeting Indian students for the little money they earn to support their studies. These attacks will not be tolerated,” he said, adding: “They will be dealt with by the full force of the Australian law enforcement and criminal justice systems.” The issue of the safety of Indian students was discussed in talks between PM Manmohan Singh and Mr Rudd, with the Australian side assuring full cooperation on the matter.
After the talks, Mr Singh in a statement expressed concern about the spate of attacks against Indian students. Mr Rudd said that Australia welcomed Indian students and that the government would do everything to ensure their safety. In spite of the steps taken by the Australian government, attacks have continued. There are almost 100,000 Indian students in Australia and their safety remains a concern. Australia has also been keen to prevent its image from being hurt as a safe education destination.
Meanwhile, the two sides, in an attempt to upgrade bilateral ties, agreed to elevate the relationship to a strategic partnership. Discussions between Mr Rudd and Mr Singh covered all aspects of the bilateral relationship — from trade to climate change. On climate change, Mr Rudd said: “Indian prime minister and I discussed the great challenge of climate change. We must have a good ambition for Copenhagen.” The two sides agreed that it is an issue of concern for both countries, with the Indian side reiterating its position on climate change.
The two sides have also decided to expedite the feasibility study to look into the impact of an FTA between the two countries. In fact, the Australian side has made no secret of its interest in an FTA, with Mr Rudd saying that he expects the study to recommend an FTA.