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India, Oz sign deal to expand education ties

India and Australia today inked a major education deal to expand exchanges in the sector as both sides sought to take their "relationship forward" after a series of vicious attacks on Indian students, including one that turned fatal for a 21-year-old youth.

india Updated: Apr 08, 2010 20:16 IST

India and Australia today inked a major education deal to expand exchanges in the sector as both sides sought to take their "relationship forward" after a series of vicious attacks on Indian students, including one that turned fatal for a 21-year-old youth.

The deal was signed as Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal met Australian Deputy Prime Minister
Julia Gillard here, their second meeting in six months.

Under the deal, the two sides agreed to set up a joint education council and to extend exchanges in the field of
education.

"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," Sibal told reporters.

An India-Australia Education Council comprising experts from both sides will be formed and a joint ministerial
statement has been signed to expand the education exchange programme.

Over 100 cases of attacks on Indians were reported last year in Australia, including the murder of 21-year-old Nitin
Garg, straining ties between the two countries.

They also led to the Indian government issuing a travel advisory asking students to exercise caution while in
Australia, and were followed by a flurry of high-profile visits by Australian dignitaries, including Prime Minister
Kevin Rudd, to India.

On the issue of the travel advisory, Sibal said: "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".

Sibal and Gillard were meeting after six months and the former said he believed the attacks on Indians had declined.

"I think the Australian government is taking strong steps in that direction to prevent those things happening," he said.

The impact of the attacks was visible as the number of Indians seeking admissions to Australian institutes plummeted
last year, from 6303 to 3761, a 40 per cent decline as compared to the previous year.

The federal education department also revealed recently that international student numbers were down nationally three
per cent and 12 per cent in Victoria.

"For an Indian family that sends a young person to this country a long way from home, they want to know that their
young person is going to be safe, get a good experience, a great education and they're going to be able to go back home
and use those skills," Gillard said, assuring Sibal of action.