Brand Australia’ gains ground in India, but…

University of Melbourne Newsroom    17 July  2012

Australia’s reputation in India is improving, but swift action is needed to protect and build on the gains, according to a report to be launched in Sydney today.

 The report Beyond the Lost Decade found Indians now rank Australia eighth among 38 countries in terms of overall favourability, up from 35th when street crimes affecting Indian students peaked in 2009-10.   This favourability is measured by perceptions in Australia’s overall governance, as well as its standing as a friendly destination for business, tourists and students.

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However the report, written by the Australia India Institute’s Perceptions Taskforce, also found that the relationship between the two countries remained ‘brittle’.

Distilling the views of eminent Australians and Indians gathered over nine months in both countries, the report made 31 recommendations to the governments of India & Australia to strengthen ties, including to:

  • Expedite negotiations on free trade, uranium sales and expanded security ties;
  • Establish a rating system to improve delivery of education services by the States to international
  • students;
  •  Offer concessions to Indian students affected by changes to immigration regulations post-2009;
  • Extend post-study work rights to VET institutes, traditionally popular with Indian students;  and,
  • Transform Australia’s overseas broadcasting organisations, Australia Network and Radio Australia.

Stating that understanding between the two nations could be improved, the Taskforce’s report also outlined opportunities to build positive perceptions and relations through acts of goodwill, such as recognising the role of Indian soldiers at Gallipoli and mandating the study of Indian history and culture within the Australian school curriculum.

Director of the Australia India Institute, Professor Amitabh Mattoo, welcomed the report saying it provides a roadmap to improve Indo-Australian relations across diplomacy, trade, business, the media, education and other areas and to translate the notion of an Australia-India concord into reality.

The Australia-India relationship is an idea whose time has come. This report provides a sensitive understanding of the problem of perceptions that impact on the relationship, and recommends ways the two countries can move ahead in the Asian Century.

Taskforce co-chair and  said the report was timely as the India-Australia relationship grew. “Most observers agree that each country doesn’t fully understand the other. This report tries to canvass why this is so, and what needs to be done,” Mr McCarthy said.

The Perceptions Taskforce also comprises former Australian High Commissioner to India, John McCarthy AO; the  Director for Geo-economics and Strategy at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, London, Dr Sanjaya Baru; former Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Professor G Parthasarathy; University of Melbourne Vice Chancellor’s Fellow Maxine McKew; author and journalist Christopher Kremmer; and leading Indian columnist Ashok Malik.

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