Australia: How can relations with India improve?

Soured relations with 4th biggest export market, as over 100 Indians are allegedly killed or injured in Australia last year.

According to the CIA World Factbook, India is Australia's fourth largest export market, accounting for 7.1% of global export trade and beating the United States into fifth position. This alone should make Australia shudder every time another Indian student is attacked on Australian soil. The Indian Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi told the Lok Sabha in New Delhi in August that as many as 103 Indians had either been killed or injured in Australia last year, according to Daily News and Analysis. This is a rise on earlier years, and a figure which means there's now a 0.07% chance of an Indian student being attacked in Australia, given there are some 150,000 Indians studying there.

The Australian government claims to be taking measures to stem this. Yet opportunistic race-hate crime is incredibly difficult to prevent, I bet. 

This is having a diplomatic knock-on effect. As Australia hosts the 54-nation Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth on 28 October, there'll be one key participant absent: Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India.  As Mohamed ElBaradeh described him, the trademark blue turban-topped head of government is "the model of what a political leader should be", reported Newsweek. Standing by his Australian-based intelligentsia and making a huge political point, Singh - one of the Commonwealth's key players - will be missing. Australian PM Julia Gillard should be highly embarrassed as the Queen opens the summit. Singh has pulled out "without giving a reason" reports The Telegraph, but reasons seem obvious, I'd have thought.

What lies behind these regular Ocker attacks? And why encourage Indians to finish their education in Australia if they are so much disliked?

It's possibly easier to answer that second question than it is to respond to the first. International education is huge business in Australia, which hosts around 600,000 foreign students at any one time. Ocker antagonism towards foreign-ness surfaces occasionally, as anyone pereived as being in the latest batch of people 'last off the boat' would explain. But these Indians aren't (necessarily) emigrating to Australia, are they? They are (presumably) intending to complete their studies and return to Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai or wherever.

In the Malaysian state of Selangor, in a city called Petaling Jaya (PJ), Monash University has established a thriving campus with 4,000 students benefitting from an Australian education. With no need to take the expensive and daunting route to Melbourne, the PJ campus provides local access to foreign knowledge. Situated a stone's throw from Kuala Lumpur, Monash is only one of numerous foreign colleges now operational in Malaysia. 

In 2009, when still Deputy Prime Minister, Gillard travelled to India for talks with the Indian Minister for Human Resource Development, Shri Kapil Sibal, to tout "a plan for Australian universities to open campuses in India" reported ABC. Even two years ago, attacks on Indian students inside Australia were causing her embarrassment, as reports of Indians being "bashed", as ABC described it, were repeatedly relayed in the Indian media.

How far Australian tertiary education institutions are in the setting up of their stalls inside India, I'm unaware. I have noticed, however, that the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay has a joint-venture going with Monash to run a graduate research academy in Mumbai. But surely, despite the stoicism, even bravery, of those young Indians who venture south to Australia, adverse media coverage would hit ennrolment at Australian university campuses in India, as Indians opted instead for India-based US or UK schools.

Aside better intelligence and security measures in Australia to protect overseas Indian students, isn't a major publicity drive to improve relations with India rather timely? As Singh snubs Australia this coming Friday, Australia ought to devise measures to allay his fears and bolster relations with the emerging superpower he governs. 

I recognise that India accounts for less than 10% of all Australian exports, but soon that could change as China's economy cools and India's expands as fast as its population grows.

But there are pressing significant humanitarian reasons for quelling such violence. And the Australian government had better quickly don its collective cork thinking hat to enact measures to placate real and immediate Indian concerns.

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