India, Australia mull social security agreement

October 16th, 2008 - 1:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Oct 16 (IANS) Australia and India may soon have a social security agreement that would greatly benefit professionals and businesses in both the countries and strengthen their growing bilateral political and economic ties.India has already signed social security agreements with France, Belgium and Germany. The significantly growing Indian community of largely skilled migrants has been pushing for a similar agreement with Australia.

“The exploratory talks between the visiting Indian delegation from the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and the Australian federal government have gone well. Both sides are hopeful of making good progress on the social security agreement at the first round of negotiations, to be held in New Delhi next month,” the Indian High Commissioner in Canberra, Sujatha Singh, told IANS.

“The agreement would be beneficial to both Indian professionals and businesses in Australia and Australian professionals and business in India. They will not have to pay double social security; there would be significant economic benefits,” the Indian envoy said.

Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) Secretary K. Mohandas and Director Emigration Policy Ranbir Singh have been in Sydney and Canberra since Monday to promote the seventh Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) scheduled to be held in Chennai Jan 7-9.

While only one percent of the 25 million Indian diaspora spread across the world is in Australia, Consul General of India in Sydney Sujan Chinoy told IANS: “The Indian community in Australia punches far above its weight. The community has given relations between India and Australia a deeper significance by making distinguished contributions in one form or the other. The community has also helped Australians to better understand multiculturalism.”

Besides the sub-continent, people of Indian origin in Australia hail from Fiji, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and other countries. According to the 2006 Census conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 234,720 people of Indian origin in Australia.

Neville Roach, who was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman earlier this year, said: “The PBD is an opportunity to learn and influence governments of both sides. It is a time for us to claim the acknowledgement and recognition that we deserve”.

India’s plan to set up three new universities for Non-Resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin was much welcomed and so was the India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians, which would help channel NRI contributions for specific development projects back home.

“Most of us have received a publicly-funded education/training in India. We can and must repay some of that help extended towards our own training/education by contributing to maybe an education fund for bright students back home who can’t afford it,” suggests Yadu Singh, a cardiologist working in public and private health in Sydney. He has been helping deserving students from economically disadvantaged families in his hometown of Banda in Uttar Pradesh.

For expatriate Indians, the PBD has provided a platform to network and also see the sights of Incredible India!

“The soft power of India represented through the diaspora and perception about India has changed in a positive way. The governments of Singapore and Israel have envisaged interest in learning from us how we engage with our diaspora”, MOIA Secretary Mohandas said.

He assured the community, miffed by long speeches during the three-day event, that one-third of each session would be set aside for interaction and exchange of ideas.

Organisers are hoping that the closeness of Chennai to Australian cities and long summer holidays during January will encourage more Australian-Indians to participate in the event.

A mini PBD in Australia is at least two years away as “there is strong contention from Europe and South Africa”. Singapore recently became only the second city after New York to host a mini PBD outside India.

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