Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith will visit India from Tuesday to discuss with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna “close cooperation in trying to solve the recent problems faced by some Indians in Australia.”
Mr. Smith said in a statement on Sunday he would, during the three-day visit, “brief the Indian government on the actions taken by [Australian] authorities to create a safe and rewarding study environment for Indian students in Australia.”
He will also “seek an update on security arrangements for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi later this year.” Having already seen two Commonwealth Games sites during his visit to India last October, he will now go around the main venue, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Spelling out other issues on his agenda, Mr. Smith cited the progress on a feasibility study for the Australia-India free trade agreement and bilateral links in science and technology besides the overall strategic partnership.
Mr. Smith would, along with Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, meet the Indian and Australian hockey teams for a goodwill game in New Delhi in the 2010 Men’s Hockey World Cup.
In an interview with an Australian network, an official transcript of which was later released, Mr. Smith said: “We have a very important relationship with India... But also, we are suffering very much in terms of our reputation and standing in India because of the recent difficulties we have had with attacks on Indian students in Australia, particularly in Melbourne... At [the Indian] government or official level, there is very much an understanding that, behind these attacks is not an all-pervading racism or racist approach. We have acknowledged that in some small number of these attacks there have been some racist overtones. But we regard ourselves and hold ourselves out as a safe place...”
On the security situation for a series of international sporting events in India, beginning with the Hockey World Cup, which began on Sunday, Mr. Smith said: “In very many respects, we are using the World Hockey Cup as, in a sense, a dry run for preparations for Commonwealth Games security arrangements.”
Noting that a recent “threat” against international cricketers in India was “not credible,” he said, “We continue [however] to underline that there is a risk — a high risk of terrorist attacks in India.” That was reflected in the current general advice on travel to India, he pointed out.