Krishna conveys concern over attacks on students

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday appreciated the categorical reassurance by Australia that it continues to take measures to address concerns over the safety and well-being of students and its zero tolerance to violence.

At a meeting with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith here, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, conveyed India’s concern while noting a number of measures taken by the government there.

Mr. Krishna said the steps should be effective so that attacks on the Indian students did not recur and also look into the aspect of some education and immigration agents who were misleading students. “The students should get what they have been promised,” he told Mr. Smith.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash told journalists that the two sides discussed issues of bilateral, regional and international affairs of mutual interest. These included expanding cooperation in economic and trade.

India is at present the 10th largest trading partner of Australia, while Canberra is the ninth largest trading partner of New Delhi. Trade grew from Australian $3.7 billion in 2002-03 to Australian $19 billion in 2007-08.

Both sides were working towards early finalisation of a report on the Free Trade Agreement Feasibility Study Joint Working Group, the Australian High Commission said in a release.

The Tuesday meeting between the two Ministers is part of the Framework Dialogue and is sixth in the series since its inception in 2000. Besides economy and trade, both sides saw scope for expansion in science and technology and energy. India currently imports coal and Liquified Natural Gas from Australia.

Support for U.N. seat

Australia reiterated its strong support for a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council and its firm support for New Delhi’s membership in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping when the membership moratorium ends next year. Australia is an observer at the meetings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Both sides are keen on expanding both political and people-to-people contacts. They are finalising details of a young political leaders exchange programme.