Australia names Indian-origin man as next envoy to India (Lead)

June 8th, 2009 - 9:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Sydney, June 8 (IANS) In an apparent move to placate India, Australia Monday named Indian-origin Peter Varghese as the next envoy to India. Varghese is considered the country’s top spy as the head of the Office of National Assessments (ONA).
The decision comes as a spate of attacks on Indian students in Australia threatens the country’s AU $16 billion education sector, of which nearly AU $2 billion is contributed by the Indians.

The attacks, which were headline news in India for at least two weeks, resulted in the Indian government lodging a strong protest with Canberra and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calling up his counterpart Kevin Rudd to express his concern and seeking assurance for the safety of an estimated 90,000 Indian students here.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Varghese - an ethnic Malayali - will be a very good high commissioner for what is “a very important relationship”.

“The government wants to take relationship with India to the front rank of our bilateral relationships, and we look forward to High Commissioner Varghese pursuing good work in India on Australia’s behalf,” Smith said.

The Australia-India bilateral relationship has been growing in recent years with the two countries closely engaging in strategic and defence matters.

India is also Australia’s fastest growing export market with energy and minerals being the main drivers, and the second largest market for education services.

The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, the country’s largest bilateral scientific research fund, has fostered increasingly close collaboration between scientists of the two countries.

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