Rajiv Gandhi Bust in UTS, Sydney!

I was privileged to take part in the ceremony this morning when the BUST of India’s former PM, Mr Rajiv Gandhi, was inaugurated in University of Technology, Sydney. The BUST was donated by Indian Council of Cultural Relations, [ICCR], Govt of India, New Delhi.

The gathering included Mr Arun Goel, Consul General of India in Sydney, Prof Ross Milbourne, VC of UTS, Prof William Purcell, Deputy VC of UTS, Neville Roach, Dr Daniel Chandran from UTS, myself and a few dozen more distinguished people.

Rajiv Gandhi was a popular PM of India, at least in the beginning of his rule. He had a lot of goodwill on his side when he took over as PM of India, after Mrs Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her security guards. He remains the youngest PM of India and his victory in 1984 election gave him the biggest majority in Indian Parliament.

He lost some of that goodwill when he passed a constitutional amendment to negate the verdict from Supreme Court in Shah Bano case. His name was dragged into Bofors scam too.

His decision to intervene in Sri Lankan civil war was also controversial. Indian Peace-keeping force suffered unnecessary loss of lives because the whole strategy was not well thought in the advance.

Unfortunately, the matters from IPKF disaster ware largely responsible for the killing of Rajiv Gandhi by a LTTE’s suicide bomber, which forced India to harden its stand against LTTE. LTTE later realized that killing of Rajiv Gandhi was their biggest blunder, from which they never recovered.

On the plus side, he brought Sam Pitroda back to India to start the telecommunication revolution, including Public Call offices [PCOs], thus making telephone facilities available even in remote area of India.

He acted to reduce the control of “licence Raj” which was giving too much power to bureaucracy, thus stifling the economy.

He also initiated the process of improvement in USA-India relations.

His doctrine for nuclear disarmament and his efforts against Apartheid were his other noteworthy things.

After his assassination, Congress Party formed the Govt with PV Narsimha Rao as the PM.

There is an increasing presence of Indian philosophy and thought in Australian Universities either in the form of BUSTs or Chairs. Mahatma Gandhi’s Bust is in UNSW where people assemble on Gandhi’s birthday, 2nd October and Rabindranath Tagore Bust is in Macquarie University in Sydney. University of Melbourne hosts Australia India Institute, which is chaired by Prof Amitabh Mattoo.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/18th October,2012

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Recommendations to take Australia India relations to a new height! Australia India Institute [AII] does a fantastic job!

Australia India Institute [AII], based at University of Melbourne and led by Amitabh Mattooo, has released its report, The Australia-India Institute – Beyond the Lost Decade. recommending steps, which, if implemented by both Govts, will take Australia India relations to a new height.

Here is the link for Report: http://www.aii.unimelb.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Beyond-the-Lost-Decadeweb.pdf

Here are the recommendations from this report. See the Link above for the detailed report.

The Australian government should, in partnership with the States, education and corporate sectors and civil society institutions:

• Undertake as an act of goodwill to extend the visas of Indian students who were in Australia on February 8, 2010, and whose pathways towards permanent residency in Australia were affected by changes to immigration regulations in that year. Such extensions or issuance of alternative categories of visa should be granted for at least 12 months from December 31, 2012.

• Extend the post-study work entitlement currently enjoyed by international students at universities to all TAFE institutes and reputable private colleges offering vocational training.

• Initiate the training of adequate numbers of school teachers in the Hindi language in preparation for its introduction into the Australian Curriculum as soon as practicable. State and Federal education ministers should agree to specify areas of the curriculum in which Indian content must be taught, including Indian history, geography and culture. Re-establish language training for Australian diplomats posted to India.

• Expand the study of contemporary India at Australian universities by providing initial funding for twenty B-level university teaching/research positions for the next five years, after which the universities fund the positions.

• Seek talks with India on granting visa-on-arrival travel for Australians and developing a special category visa for young Australians wishing to work in India. Initiate talks on new visa categories that cut red tape for visits by leadership figures such as university vice-chancellors and deans, Supreme Court judges, holders of national awards such as the Padma Bhushan and Order of Australia.

• Encourage the nomination of more foreign nationals, including Indians, for the Order of Australia awards, and more vigorously publicise foreign recipients by announcing them on the same day as national award winners each year.

• Benchmark and fund scholarships for Australian university students to study in Asian nations to a maximum of one per 100 international students studying in Australia in any given year.

• Double the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s paltry public diplomacy budget of $5 million, with the additional funds earmarked to raising awareness in India of exemplary initiatives such as the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

• Modernise Australia’s approach to international broadcasting, with Australia Network (TV) and Radio Australia taking on a larger role as content providers to Asian broadcasters. Australia Network to retain close links with DFAT but funding and editorial responsibility should rest with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

• Establish an Australia-India senior editors’ dialogue modelled on the Australia-Indonesia editors’ dialogue, with initial funding for four meetings, in New Delhi,

Sydney, Mumbai and Melbourne over a six-year period.

• Introduce an Australian education rating system for States that provide education services to international students, encouraging them to prevent and/or speedily

address problems that can damage Australia’s brand as an education provider by prioritising student safety, proper orientation, police liaison support, and the active

involvement of local ethnic communities as contact points for international students, including Indians.

• Invite representatives of regiments of Indian troops who fought at Gallipoli to be Australia’s guests at the 100th anniversary commemorations of the campaign in

2015, and invite expressions of interest from documentary film makers interested in producing feature films and documentaries about the shared experiences of Indian and Australian soldiers at Gallipoli.

• Establish a permanent naval attaché position in the Australian High Commission in New Delhi, in addition to the existing defence adviser position, which can continue to rotate between Army, Navy and Air Force personnel. Begin negotiations for joint training exercises between Indian and Australian Special Forces, as currently exist between India and the United States.

• Fund the Australia India Institute to develop an online ‘one-stop shop’ website providing reliable information on all aspects of trade, diplomatic, educational, people-to-people cultural relations.

• Increase support and funding of major travelling exhibitions on art, history, heritage and sport to and from Australia and India, including the Bowral-based International Cricket Hall of Fame’s effort to mount offshore exhibitions in India.

• Expand the growing range of Australia-India annual lectures, such as the Gandhi Oration and Crawford Lectures to all academic disciplines and civil society sectors, and name one such lecture in honour of the late esteemed India expert A.L. Basham.

• Encourage Australian political parties to pursue formal dialogues and party-to-party relationships between the main political parties in each country; increase interactions between Australian and Indian State and Federal parliamentarians via delegations, conferences and staff exchanges.

• Fund the Australian Institute of Criminology to undertake ongoing research into racism and crime, with an initial reference to inquire into the high profile incidents that impacted on relations with Indian in 2009-10.

•Fcilitate the entry of Australian Technical and Further Education Institutions to provide training in India and other countries on a not-for-profit basis.

• Offer India the use of Australian expertise in developing distance education and the virtual classroom.

• Create a web-based advertising campaign showcasing Indian students’ opinions on Australia as a place to study, live and work.

• Encourage Australian media organisations to revive regular staff exchanges with Indian media organisations.

• Enlist Tourism Australia to develop an India wedding package that will encourage Indian honeymooners to take their holidays here, and couples of any

background to wed in grand Indian style at selected locations across Australia, including the Outback.

The Taskforce also recommends that…

The Indian government should:

* Propose institutionalised regular Prime Ministerial visits between New Delhi and Canberra. Establish a young political leaders program between India and Australia.

* Establish a naval attaché position at the Indian high commission in Canberra and open an Indian consulate in Brisbane in recognition of India’s economic interests in Queensland.

* Expedite the proposed restructuring of the territorial divisions of the MEA and split the 26-nation Southern Division, hiving off part of its mandate to a newly constituted Indo-Pacific or Australasia Division that could include Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

* Explore potential for shared humanitarian assistance and technical capacity-building programs in third countries. Australia has an expansive humanitarian assistance and technical partnership program with several countries through AusAID. India’s new Development Partnership Administration (DPA) Division in the MEA seeks a similar institutional profile. They can combine and contribute financial, material or human resources for specific projects, perhaps for programs in less-developed states of the Commonwealth.

• Encourage the setting up of separate, track 2/track 1.5 taskforces and dialogues on Australia’s role in Indian energy and food security.

• Consider a policy of visa-on-arrival for citizens of Australia, which is currently available to citizens of New Zealand, among others.

• Encourage business associations such as the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and their member corporations to interact with their counterparts in Australia, and institute short-term work and exchange programs for young Australian and Indian professionals.

• Accepting that democracy is a common and cherished principle shared by both countries, encourage a track 2/track 1.5 taskforce dialogue on democratic capacity

building, to explore possibilities of providing institutional and technical cooperation, including human resource training, to newly emerging democracies in, for example, the Arab world.

• Encourage the Press Trust of India and Doordarshan to establish a stronger presence in Australia, with a more robust network of stringers or fully fledged correspondents.

I believe that both Governments should review them and implement the recommendations to improve the relations between Australia and India. Federal Govt should do the necessary things including approving the Uranium decision in the Cabinet.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/17th July 2012.

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