Step up ties with India or miss out ‘enormous potential’: Pyne

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Aus education minister inaugurates Australia India Institute in New Delhi; cricketer Adam Gilchrist as inaugural education ambassador

Federal education minister Christopher Pyne has reasserted the government’s stance that Australia needs to step up bilateral ties with India to unlock the “enormous potential” going unrealised.

“When you think that our trade relationship with India is $15 billion a year and our trade relation with China is $160 billion a year, it shows that there’s enormous potential,” said Pyne, while officially inaugurated the Australia India Institute’s [AII] new headquarters in New Delhi on 23 August.

“And we have so much in common, just starting with our language, that we should actually have a much greater relationship with India than we’ve had,” he said.

Pyne said AII would “continue to play a really important role” in building ties between Australia and India, while its New Delhi headquarters would help Australian researchers gain a greater understanding of the relationship.

“AII has grown and flourished and now has a physical presence here in Delhi and, as Amitabh [Mattoo, AII New Delhi CEO] pointed out, will bring visiting researchers here, who’ll get a much greater understanding of the relationship between India and Australia,” he said.

“I’m very glad that the government is supporting it [AII] financially,” My Pyne said, adding that the establishment of its New Delhi headquarters would make it “difficult for any government in the future not to continue that financial support”.

The minister for education and training was visiting India along with a high level delegation of Australian university vice chancellors and peak industry bodies to strengthen relations in the education sector.

Among a whirlwind of events, the minister joined India’s minister of human development Smriti Irani for a meeting of the Australia India Education Council, at which they confirmed their commitment to collaborate in education.

The visit also saw the signing of a memorandum of understanding [MOU] between India and Australia to boost cooperation in education, training and research — both parties agreed to work to establish qualifications recognition between Australia and India, support exchange programs, encourage research collaborations, and further develop bilateral programs between technical, vocational and higher education institutions and schools.

Earlier in his visit, Mr Pyne announced the appointment of cricketer Adam Gilchrist as Australia’s inaugural ambassador to India on education.

“Adam will play an important part in supporting the growth in the strong bilateral education relationship between Australia and India, to help ensure Australia continues to be seen as a high quality provider of education,” My Pyne said in a statement.

He said the famous cricketer would “help grow our already strong education partnership with India and raise Australia’s profile and reputation”.

“The Indian people recognise Adam as one of cricket’s greats, and the values he espouses both on and off the field – excellence and integrity – are precisely those with which Australia aligns its reputation for high-quality education, training and research,” Mr Pyne said.

Gilchrist said he was excited about his new role saying: “For the past seven years in my capacity as an ambassador at one of Australia’s best research universities I have seen first-hand the vital role education plays in the development of modern India.”

Mr Pyne also opened a new building at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB)-Monash Research Academy in Mumbai, which he said would enhance strategic research collaboration between the Institute and Australia’s Monash University.

“Research collaboration is essential as no single government or organisation can provide all the solutions to global challenges such as food security, sustainable agricultural practices, energy and water security or health,” the minister said in a statement.

The government helped establish the academy, providing $1.5 billion in seed funding through its Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

Mr Pyne said the collaborative research work being undertaken at the academy would benefit both Australia and India.

“The collaboration between the IITB and Monash University will see students receive a joint PhD from both institutions, with the added benefit of exposing a large cohort of young researchers to cutting-edge international research,” he said.

In his eyes, the new building represents: “an exciting new chapter in Australia’s deepening relationship with India on education and research”.

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