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'Oz officials to visit India after student attacks'

A high-level Australian delegation will travel to India next week to give safety assurances following a wave of attacks on Indian students, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Thursday.

world Updated: Jul 02, 2009 16:23 IST

A high-level Australian delegation will travel to India next week to give safety assurances following a wave of attacks on Indian students, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Thursday.

Rudd said the trip by police and senior government officials was part of a strategy to make international students feel welcomer in Australia.

"It is important to extend Australian hospitality to international students," Rudd said in a joint statement with Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The delegation of officials, education sector representatives and police officers from Victoria state, a hotspot for the attacks on Indian students, will arrive in New Delhi on Sunday.

"It will also travel to major Indian cities to meet with state governments and others to hear about their concerns and reassure them that Australia is a safe destination for Indian students," Rudd said.

Some 95,000 Indians are studying in Australia after a university publicity blitz targeting the South Asian country's growing middle class.

However, a series of attacks boiled over into street protests last month, straining diplomatic ties and casting a shadow over an education industry, which generates 15.5 billion dollars (12.4 billion US) in annual exports.

Other aspects of Rudd's strategy include giving students more information before they travel to Australia, helping them develop language skills and also to engage more with local communities.

Rudd has also announced a meeting with international students in Canberra in September to discuss issues such as accommodation, welfare and safety.

Foreign affairs officials are currently hosting a delegation of journalists from India, seeking to curb highly critical media coverage there, which has included headlines such as "Australia, land of racists."