What Indians in Australia expect from the Modi Govt

 

 
 
 

The new government should be proactive in considering the interests and welfare of the Indian community down under.

It is not a hyperbole to say that a new era has dawned in India with the swearing-in of the Modi Government on Monday, 26 May, 2014.

A decisive, “can do” leader, Sri Narendra Modi, is the Prime Minister. Indians, not just in India but around the world, are confident that things will change for the better and the Indian economy will grow rapidly.

People have expectations from the new government. While people have a wide variety of expectations, which they want the Modi Govt to deliver, there are some common themes in their expectations. Based on my interactions with many Indians in Australia, and based on my own thinking, there are a few things that people expect the new government to consider.

Prime Minister’s visit to Australia: There has not been any state visit by an Indian PM to Australia after the late Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s visit in 1980s. PM Modi should accept the invitation from Australia to schedule a state visit to Australia this year itself. Several Australian PMs have already visited India, but a reciprocal visit by an Indian PM is yet to happen. There should be time for the PM to interact with the community in at least one, but preferably two, major cities. The G20 summit is scheduled to happen in Brisbane on November 15 and 16, 2014. This will be a perfect opportunity for the Indian PM’s long overdue official visit to Australia too.

Genuine dual citizenship: This has been discussed and debated for long. There is an almost universal demand that overseas Indians be given a right to hold genuine dual citizenship with voting and property rights, if the country of their citizenship has no issue with this and if there are no security issues with granting dual citizenship to any particular overseas Indian. After all, Australia, USA, UK, NZ and many other developed as well as developing countries already offer this facility.

Visa on arrival for Australian citizens: Australian citizens, like many others including New Zealanders, should get the same visa-free arrival facilities in India. If this is not the case at present, it should be implemented without further delay.

Black money in overseas banks: Genuine, proactive and effective steps should be taken to tackle this menace and bring the money back to India within 12 months. No favour should be given to anyone irrespective of who they are or what connections they have. The decision to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for this purpose is good.

Effective anti-corruption body: A group of 10-15 people from civil society including judges, eminent jurists and overseas Indians (if possible) should be asked to review the Lok Pal Act, passed by the Lok Sabha earlier in the year, and suggest steps to rectify weakness to make it an effective corruption fighting body. This should be completed in the next 12 months.

The PM’s global Overseas Indians Advisory body: The PM should revamp his Global Advisory Body, constituted by the previous PM. People in it should be those who have significant presence and influence in their countries. The habit of Indian diplomats recommending non-descript and non-influential people for this body should eliminated.

Country specific Overseas Indian Advisory body: Countries with significant overseas Indian population (Australia is certainly one such country) should have an advisory body of not more than 10 people, which can be used for consultations and other advisory purposes, not only by the local GOI authorities/agencies, but also the relevant authorities/agencies in India.

Annual dialogue between Indian and Australian leaders: PMs, Foreign Affairs Ministers and Defence Ministers should hold annual meeting/dialogue, with venues for such meeting/dialogue alternating between India and Australia.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA): The pace of the discussions and negotiations should be accelerated so that FTA can be concluded by the end of 2015.

Bilateral Nuclear Trade negotiations: The pace of the discussions and negotiations should be accelerated with the goal to conclude it by the 30 June, 2015.

Bilateral and multi-lateral defence exercises between India and Australia: India and Australia should work actively to enhance their defence & strategic relations bilaterally and multilaterally in the pattern agreed prior to the 2007 Rudd Govt in Australia.

Hindi teachings in Australian Universities: To increase India’s soft power and increase the numbers of India-literate Australians, India should consider funding such teaching courses in some select Universities in Australia.

Facilitations of Australian Universities and TAFE to have campuses in India: Many Australian institutions are ranked quite highly in various world Universities ranking systems. Collaborations in this field should be actively facilitated and encouraged, following a pragmatic and win-win module.

Indian Consulate in Brisbane: Queensland is an important state for Indian investment. Indian business houses like the Adani group have an important and a significant presence in this state. It is important to have an Indian Consulate in Brisbane.

India House or Indian Cultural Centre in major capital cities: The Indian community has grown significantly in Australia. It is increasingly felt that such centres are required, at least in Sydney and Melbourne. While some funding will be raised locally, a significant part of the funds should come from Indian Govt. Govt of India (GOI) Funds, if any, allocated for something of this nature to be established in the Indian Consulate premises in Sydney CBD should be reviewed and re-allocated for a centre of this nature in areas like Parramatta or Blacktown, where the Indian community has a substantial presence. Sydney CBD is not a practical or appropriate site for an Indian Cultural Centre.

Overseas Indians’ property in India: Many overseas Indians are seeing that their properties are illegally occupied and face threats to their safety when they visit India. Court cases go on for extended periods of time. IPC should be amended to tackle this menace.

Interactions between GOI agencies and Indian Australian community: It is often felt that GOI authorities in Australia do not interact with people sufficiently, thus leading to a communication gap. It is a common experience that there is a significant gap between what we expect and what is delivered. Steps should be implemented to improve the situation.

Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs visit to Australia: With approx. 500,000 people of Indian heritage in Australia, a biennial visit of Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs (The Hon Sushma Swaraj) or her deputy, The Hon Gen (Retd) V K Singh, should be included in the official GOI travel calendar. This will help facilitate interactions with the community and facilitate Overseas Indians’ investment in India.

Streamlined grievance redressal mechanism for Overseas Indians: Overseas Indian Affairs ministry has often not been very helpful and help has often not come in a timely fashion due to excessive bureaucratic influences. This should be reviewed and streamlined.

Exchanges between Academicians and civil Society leaders: We need regular bilateral exchange visits of academics, journalists, leaders and civil society leaders. This will help improve relations between the two countries. The scope and numbers should be increased.

This is our wish list, which we believe is doable, not difficult and will provide multiple benefits to various stake-holders, including India.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/13th June, 2014

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This was originally published in Indian Sun News magazine, Sydney on 10th June, 2014.  http://www.theindiansun.com.au/top-story/indians-australia-expect-modi-govt/

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Finally, Uranium trade with India has bipartisan support!

My article>>> Uranium-Bipartisan-article                                                                                                                             

 

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/8th Dec, 2011

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India’s Look East Policy:Australia is a perfect fit in it!

I was invited to write this article for the Journal from Foreign Policy Research Centre [FPRC], New Delhi. FPRC is a Think Tank on India’s Foreign Policy.

I have argued that Australia and India should develop the best of the best relations, and suggested how it can be achieved.

Link is here>>>  LEP.FPRC.Journal  See pages 200-206.

PS: Please note that ALP has passed a resolution in its national conference on Sunday, 4th Dec, 2011, reversing the ban on Uranium trade with India. Yadu Singh/6th Dec, 2011.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/15th Nov, 2011

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Yes, tapping into Asian boom is in Australia’s national interest!

Julia Gillard

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http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/foreign-affairs/julia-gillard-commissions-white-paper-to-look-at-ways-to-exploit-asian-boom/story-fn59nm2j-1226149322811

Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has outlined in a speech in Asia Society today that Australia wants to tap into the booming economies of Asia, especially China, India and Indonesia. Australia’s raw materials, education and manufactured goods are in high demands in Asia. It is in the national interest of Australia to deal with Asian economies actively.

A white paper will be released by mid 2012, outlining various issues, risks, opportunities and benefits. Mr Ken Henry, ex-treasury secretary is the person who will do this job. This white paper will have detail of the short term initiatives [up to 5 years] and long term initiatives for a period up to 2025.

It is a no brainer for Australia to do so. In coming years and decades, Australian economy will get increasingly integrated with Asian economies. China, Japan, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Singapore and other nations from Asia are already our most important trading partners. This is going to increase more in the coming years. The booming economies in Asia have made people call it “Asian Century”, and indeed, it is a smart move for Australia to tap into these economies more actively and speedily.

There will be some political issues which may create some obstacle, but they can all be managed with varying degree of ease. 

As far as India is concerned, there is one potential obstacle which comes to mind. Some have called it an unnecessary irritation. There are enough justifications for Australia to sell Uranium to India and earn goodwill with India. People who know this issue have all suggested that Uranium issue needs urgent attention, and sale agreed, to take the India-Australia relations to a much higher level. PM Gillard should not have any trouble in getting the relevant amendments of the existing Acts passed in the Parliament, because Coalition already supports Uranium trade to India.

 In 2009, the bilateral trade between Australia and India was $20.87 billions. By now, it would have easily crossed $23 billions. With Uranium issue sorted, the bilateral trade can go to the top gear and easily double from the current value in a short to mid term.

To take the trade and relation at the higher level, it would be helpful to have an expertise in the national languages of these nations. In India’s case, there is a lot of points in favour of including India’s national language, HINDI, as a secondary language in the national curriculum. My previous Blog on Hindi is here. https://yadusingh.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/australian-national-draft-curriculum-for-second-tier-languageswhy-is-hindi-missing-from-it/

I am looking forward to this White Paper next year.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/28th Sept, 2011

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Related articles

OZ Uranium to India:my article in Mining & Technology Australia Journal.

Mining and Technology Australia asked me to write an article on OZ Uranium to India. This magazine is an Industry journal. It has now been published.

Link is here>> http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1sqpz/MiningampTechnologyA/resources/index.htm Page 40-41.

I am keen to hear from you about your views, points and counterpoints. I enclose this Radio interview about Uranium mining in Australia. http://radioadelaidebreakfast.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/in-focus-uranium-mining-business-and-trade-2/

Yadu Singh/Sydney/12th July, 2011

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National organisation of Indian Australians is the need of the hour!

Australia has a substantial numbers of people of Indian heritage. It is approximately >250000. With students from India, this goes above >350000. It is going to increase as Indians have formed a good chunk of the total Australian immigrants over the last several years.

One of the things we have seen lately is the fact that there are Indian functions almost every weekend. In Sydney alone, we have had 6 Diwali functions including a big Diwali fair in Parramatta stadium. This Hindu Council of Australia fair was impressive and the biggest fair for/by Indian community. This is great.

With increased numbers, problems faced by some of us have also increased. It is expected. There are some issues however which appear to be more pertinent for our community. Students’ issues is one such example. There is a large number of ex-students who are in a bridging visa and are in fact in a limbo as the processing of their applications has not been progressing.

Negative portrayal of Australia by Indian media last year was often hysterical and imbalanced. This was not fair. Issues were there but the manner of coverage was not right. There were heaps of leaders issuing a variety of  views which were often conflicting. One leader had a habit of calling every incident as a racist incident without even waiting for full evidence. This type of reporting has a potential to create a backlash against Indian Australian community. I am not denying that there were serious issues in regards to Indian students and Indian media, in fact, helped bring them to fore-front but exaggerated and imbalanced coverage in many cases and overuse of  racism word was not helpful. A segment of Indian media literally branded Australia to be a racist country without bothering to check the basis or the facts for that claim.

With the issues created by some students ie documentary frauds, contract marriages and crimes committed by them, the reputation and image of Indian community has had a significant hit. This needs to be tackled too. We have to live and work here and our community can’t afford to have a negative image. Our image of a community of educated people with a relatively much less crime needs to be restored and enhanced.

There are several issues which our community must deal with. Helping new arrivals by mentoring is one of the things which we will need to do as a community. Helping new arrivals to integrate well is a very important mentoring job. Domestic violence and exploitation of our people, often by our own people, must be tackled.

There are issues between Australia and India. The classical one is about the sale of Australian Uranium to India which current Gov does not want to do. We obviously want to see that happen. Non-signatory status of India for NPT has no significance after India was given the India-specific NSG exemption last year with an active support from Australia. India also has a clean record on nuclear non-proliferation.

There are obviously several issues and I have mentioned only a few.

When educated Indian Australians with vision talk about the community issues, they do talk about the need for a national body which can take up the issues which have a national significance for the community. While doing so, they also talk about the mushrooming of “community leaders” every where, many of whom do not have an idea of conflict of interest. Many such “leaders” do not have the pre-requisite for the leadership role. Such national body must be able to work in a co-operative fashion with Indian/Australian Gov agencies including Indian consulates and the High Commission, and business-focused bodies such as AIBC.

We need genuine associations of Indian Australians which can tackle the problems of the community in a genuine way. These associations need to be pan-Indian in outlook and should not have a linguistic or regional outlook, focusing on the language spoken at home or the place of origin in India as the basis for the organisation.

We really have far too many associations and far too many “leaders”. Leaders of all associations must move on after serving for a maximum of two years. It is not a good idea for these “leaders” to use associations as a place for retirement activities. It is totally ridiculous to see “leaders” who are in their late 70s or 80s when they are clearly unable to grasp the situation and needs of our community. Respecting our seniors is one thing [and I too respect them] but that does not mean that we have to put up with their inefficient or inappropriate leadership. Issues of Year 2010 need leaders who can understand them and can do something about them. Our elder leaders [late 70s and 80s], if they have a burning desire to do community work, can do a great job by being the mentors and guides for the younger leaders. Their experience can be invaluable.

All such organisations must work in a transparent fashion. Indian ethnic media needs to do their genuine job to ensure that associations and leaders are doing the right job. Forming alliances with associations/leaders is not a good idea. This is a problem area.

We really need genuine leaders for our community and such leaders must be those who have;

  • vision and credibility
  • capacity to lead
  • ability to communicate with Gov authorities and people
  • ability to network and communicate with media
  • integrity
  • capacity to understand “conflict of interest” and practise it
  • capacity to follow the principles of transparency and accountability
  • capacity to lead by examples ie can be role models

Being “leaders” for photo ops and doing Melas [Fairs] only is not going to help! Taking commissions for their “leadership” is an absolute NO.

Some discussions are going on in these regards and an outcome is expected soon, hopefully.

One must not forget that we have literally hundreds if not thousands of “associations” most of which are essentially pocket associations of our “leaders”.  We can see how/why associations-based federation[association of association] at the national level will be a failure from the day one. It should therefore be an organisation based on individual membership, taken from the people who fulfill criterion explained above.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/14th Nov, 2010

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Australian Uranium to India:Why Australia should sell it to India?

Last year, the then PM, Kevin Rudd and several ministers including the then Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard visited India. India is an important country for Australia on multiple counts. It is a rising global power which is also an important trading partner of Australia. Indian students’ issues aside, both countries enjoy friendly relations with one another. 

We, Indian Australians, have a keen interest in seeing good relations between these two countries.

Both countries must consider the interests of one another while doing business with one another. There are too many things which bind us together. These are our democracies, rule of law, multi-cultural societies, love of Cricket and memberships of the Commonwealth to name a few.

Previous Australian Gov led by PM John Howard did many things to move Australia and India closer. He declared that he would sell Uranium to India as India had impeccable records of nuclear non-proliferation. Other important step in this direction was a decision to initiate a quadrilateral strategic dialogue involving USA, Australia, India and Japan. Yet another was the naval exercises called Malabar exercises involving  Navies from India, USA, Australia, Japan and Singapore. After winning the Gov in 2007, Kevin Rudd led ALP Gov reversed the decision to sell Uranium to India and other steps too became non-operative from one or the other reason. Unhappy with Australia’s policies, India did not participate in Kakadu Naval exercises where even Pakistani Navy showed up.  Basically, Australia-India relations have moved backward since 2007. They moved back a few degrees more after the students’ issues last year. A serious work is required to rectify this situation.

Indian economy is growing and will keep growing for years to come. GFC [Global Financial Crisis] did not affect India as much as it did others. India is on a roll. The only thing which holds India down is the fact that it has a problem in regards to its energy supply. It needs more and more energy for its growth. It  needs as much energy as it can get its hands on. Indian economy’s growth is essential not only for India but it is also essential for the health of the world economy.

India has been exploring all sources of energy supply as its local supply is far shorter than what it needs. India has to import petroleum from the Arab countries and is debating about the gas supply from Iran. Iranian Gas is however problematic as it has to transit via Pakistani territory which is a problem in itself. Pakistani Govt authorities will never be able to guarantee a secure transit due to its weakness and the presence of the “non-state actors” there who are anti-India. In addition, India cannot rule out a war between India and Pakistan which will create problems in the transit of the gas.

India is therefore forced to explore the option of atomic energy. It has no choice. Thanks to the leadership of The Prime Minister, Mr ManMohan Singh and the then US President, Mr George Bush, India has an India-specific NSG [Nuclear Suppliers’ Group] exemption in 2009 which enabled it  to have bilateral nuclear energy deals with USA, Russia, France, Canada and some more countries. India needs a similar deal with Australia which will allow the Uranium sale to India. Australia has about 40% of world Uranium and sells it to China. NPT should not be an obstacle for Australia to sell Uranium to India after the NSG’s India specific exemption and with India’s impeccable record in nuclear non-proliferation. NSG exemption was a testimony to the fact that India has been a responsible country and has never been involved in nuclear proliferation, unlike others in our neighbourhood. Australia supported this exemption. NSG exemption permits nuclear trade by India without signing NPT.

We should remind ourselves about what the former Australian PM, Mr John Howard had said about such sale. He said that it would not be fair to sell Uranium to China and deny that to India. PM Howard was dead right.

When Kevin Rudd’s ALP Gov reversed Mr Howard’s decision, India was upset and disappointed. Indian Australians were upset too. People felt that it was an unfair decision. India had a difficulty to understand the logic behind this decision once India was given NSG exemption with an active support from Australia.  NPT issue is not relevant at all in regards to India as India has impeccable records in these matters. ALP’s policy, insisting on NPT signature by India, is wrong and ill-considered. Australian Foreign Minister Mr Stephen Smith’s press conference in New Delhi is worth going through. It is available through DFAT website. India has never been involved in nuclear proliferation unlike Pakistan and China. China is a NPT signatory but its record in these matters is not that great. Everybody knows the nexus between China and Pakistan. We should not forget how North Korea got its atomic bombs. Pakistan would not have supplied anything to North Korea without the consent of China. Manuals in Chinese language were found even in Lybia which tried to buy things from disgraced proliferators like AQ Khan of Pakistan.

Simply put, it makes no sense for Australian Uranium going to China but not to India. In fact, there is more justification for Uranium sale to India. It will be pragmatic and a smart move if ALP drops its objection to selling Uranium to a non-NPT signatory country like India because India has fault-free records in proliferation matters and this fact has been recognised by the world with the India specific NSG waiver.  ALP decision to not sell Uranium to India has been considered unfriendly by many quarters in India and Indian Australian community. It is a big stumbling block in good Australia-India relations.

I have urged the Australian PM and ALP to give India a “fair go” through emails and my Blog. I argued that it was what was expected from a friendly country. It is not fair to bind Australia with the NPT dogma and not see the whole issue in a realistic way. A friend has to see the problems of  his/her friends properly. Australia is a friend of India. It showed it by supporting the NSG exemption for India in Vienna last year. It shows it by supporting a permanent position for India in UNSC. It is about time that we see it once again by seeing Uranium trade between Australia and India. As we understand, it [ALP] would not have any political fallout from its decision to sell Uranium to India because the Coalition is already in favour of doing so. It should not be a problem to amend Atomic energy Act either, giving an India-specific exemption for Australian Uranium sale to India. I remain doubtful though whether ALP and specifically ALP Left will change its objection in this regard.

I urge my Australian Indian friends to lobby with their local MPs on this matter. We need to pool our energies in persuading the Australian Gov to sell Uranium to India.

Like Lowy Institute’s Rory Medcalf [Ex Australian High Commissioner to New delhi], I and thousands of my friends in Australia do believe strongly that Australia should sell Uranium to India. We find this refusal to sell Uranium to India  unfair and illogical. India needs new and cleaner sources of energy  and nuclear energy is at the top of its list. Nuclear energy will not only help India but it will help the whole world as it will reduce pollution and carbon emission.

A time has come when Australia sees the issues properly and does the right thing. That right thing is to sell Uranium to India.

PM Julia Gillard, if elected on 21st Aug, will get an opportunity to change this illogical policy and sell Uranium to India but will she do it is yet to be seen.

Tony Abbott, if he gets the mandate on 21st Aug, and his team including Julie Bishop, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb have already reconfirmed their resolve to sell Uranium to India.

We want some significant movement for more meaningful and better Australia- India relations.

The question in our minds is whether ALP will do the right thing or whether it would be the coalition which will do it!

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/09-11-09 

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