While Australian politicians talk endlessly of the need for ever-deeper relations with China, India has been repeatedly overlooked. A recent list of priority languages taught in ACT schools listed Hindi below German and Spanish and on a par with Latin.
Moves to supply India with uranium consistently result in objections from the anti-nuclear lobby on the grounds that as India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the material could be diverted to the country’s weapons program.
The failure of these activists to accept Indian undertakings that this will not be the case is insulting, bordering on racism.
Similarly, opposition to the Carmichael Coalmine in Central Queensland, meant to supply India’s burgeoning energy needs, may have a solid environmental basis, but this has not been properly explained to New Delhi where many senior officials see it as just another slight from Canberra.
only be hoped that the education initiative, led by Minister for Education
Christopher Pyne, has gone some way to repairing the damage. Presiding at a
meeting of the Australia India Education Council in New Delhi, Mr Pyne and the
Indian Minister for Human Resources, Smriti Irani both stressed the significant
role that education had to play in the bilateral relationship.
The Council agreed on a joint feasibility study to examine the establishment of a grouping of higher education institutions aimed at encouraging greater student mobility as well as language and cultural studies by Australians in India.
New facilities at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay-Monash Research Academy in Mumbai were officially opened, and retired cricketer Adam Gilchrist was appointed as Australia’s inaugural ambassador to India on education.
It can only be hoped this is just the beginning of a general recognition of India’s importance as a trading partner for Australia and that initiatives in the education sector will spread to other areas of the two nations’ economies.