By SAT News Desk
MELBOURNE, 12 September 2021: The issue of thousands of stranded Indian students enrolled in Australian universities and institutions because of Covid-19 international restrictions raised its head at the 2+ 2 talks between the foreign and defence Ministers talks in New Delhi. India pushed for their early return to Australia, which means easing travel restrictions amid the continuing pandemic waves in NSW and Victoria.
The lockout and other restrictions in NSW and Victoria being eased in itself are unlikely to happen till the vaccination percentage reaches 70 and 80 percent, as announced by the Australian PM Scott Morrison. Vaccinations are moving fast but when this percentage goal is achieved remains to be seen. The India High Commissioner Mr. Manpreet Vohra claimed in The Guardian interview that the pandemic situation in India is ‘vastly improved’. What is Australia’s assessment is not known?
India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar raised the issue at the recently held 2+2 talks. The number of such students is around 17,000.
During press interaction, Dr. S. Jaishankar took up the issue with Minister Payne. Indian Express quotes him saying, ” “I specifically took up with Minister Payne the problems faced by Indian students in Australia and those wishing to go to Australia as well as the Indian origin community that is resident there.
The foreign minister stated that the government is considering the problems faced by students wishing to study abroad on a “very high priority” and is taking it up “very vigorously with our foreign partners”, including countries like US and Canada.
I think their frustrations, their feelings are completely understandable. Many of them would like to be at the institutions that they are already studying or want to study. So we discussed it in some detail today. Minister Payne shared with me what is Australia’s thinking about when students will be able to come,” Jaishankar said.”
In her response, the Australian Minister emphasized the vaccination drive taking place in the country in phases. Indian and other international students, she said, would return during phase three (phase two being partial reopening), and all overseas travel could open up in the last phase four.
A month back the India High Commissioner in Australia Mr. Manpreet Vohra had told Guardian Australia in an interview that “extended travel restrictions could cause frustration, uncertainty, and anxiety among thousands of students who have been unable to travel to Australia to undertake their courses, adding that online education was “not what they signed up for”.
“They signed up for education here in your universities, they continue to pay a substantial amount of tuition fees. They are getting online education, of course, but that really is not what they signed up for,” he said.
In the media statement issued at the end of 2+ 2 talks by Dr. S. Jaishankar says, ” I also specifically took up with Minister Payne the problems faced by Indian students in Australia and those wishing to go to Australia as well as the Indian origin community that is resident there. I urged that the difficulties faced by the students due to travel restrictions be sympathetically addressed as soon as possible.”
India forcefully pressing for the early return of Indian overseas students to Australia and receiving a guarded answer from Australia, portrays the challenging times the world is passing through. When will these students come back remains a moot question?