Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao will take up all issues related to the education of Indians in the U.S. during her Feb. 11-13 visit to Washington

The decision to expand the Foreign Secretary's brief was taken by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna after a phone call from the Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) explaining their side of the story in the closure of the California-based Tri Valley University (TVU) and the alternatives to fitting of radio tags on a few Indian students.

The government is currently in an unenviable situation. It has already taken a stand on the radio collar issue, calling them unwarranted and seeking their removal. But the explanation by the U.S.

ICE authorities has led to some rethink. Sources said if the radio collars were to be removed, the U.S. authorities would have to take the students into custody. Bail would be readily available but each student might have to post a bond of up to $20,000 to $25,000 (about Rs. 10 lakh) to get out of detention.

They also pointed out that but for the problems caused by this university's closure, over one lakh Indian students are availing high quality education in the U.S. without any issues. “We must not permit passions roused by the TVU episode to affect the rest of the students. That aspect will have to be kept in mind when we engage with the U.S. over TVU,” said the sources. They also took pot-shots at the U.S. Consular Service which claims to brook no interference or suggestions while evaluating visa applications in order to ensure the process is faultless.

Mr. Krishna has also appealed for the issue to be considered from the “larger perspective” — radio collaring affects over a dozen TVU students while lakhs of other Indians are studying in the U.S. with no complaints.

“I would appeal to the people of the country and to the media in particular that we should look at it in the larger perspective of these one lakh Indian students who are pursuing their studies in various universities,” he added, while observing that the U.S. authorities were being asked how they allowed a “dubious” educational institution to function and how visas were given by the U.S. Consulate Service.

Meanwhile, Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said while the government was very concerned about the issue, people should be more careful when applying for admission in universities.

“Even in India, students are duped by fake universities. The basic law that applies here is that the consumer must be aware. Had this happened in India, we could have taken action. But we can help TVU students through diplomatic channels as of now. The matter is being dealt with by the Foreign Office,” he added.

The main purpose of Ms. Rao's Washington visit is to prepare for the Indo-U.S. Foreign Ministers' strategic dialogue here on April 4 and 5. At the top of the Indian wish list is bringing back a time line for fulfilling U.S. President Barack Obama's assurance to help India secure full membership of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group and three other non-proliferation multilateral organisations.

The U.S. has already set the stage for firm discussions on the issue by fulfilling another key assurance of paring down the list of Indian organisations and companies restricted from hi-tech trade with American companies. South Block sources were satisfied with the removal of the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Defence Research and Development Organisation last week.

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