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Indian IIT graduate denied Australian visa on ‘nuclear proliferation’ grounds

Melbourne, July 20: An Indian IIT Kanpur graduate, Ananth SM who was offered a fully-funded PhD position by the University of Melbourne, has been denied a visa by Australia.

And with it a came an extremely strange ground for this denial – Ananth could be involved in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

It is understood that the Department of Foreign Affairs informed the IIT graduate that it was a decision made by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who had refused his entry because he was “a person whose presence in Australia may be directly or indirectly associated with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”.

Graduating from prestigious IIT Kanpur institute, Ananth works as an aerospace engineer.

It is understood that the scholarship to Ananth was offered because he had made a strong application from a group of high performers at Cambridge University.

Ananth had applied for a temporary student visa in August 2015 after getting the full scholarship for a Ph.D. in fluid mechanics at Melbourne Uni.

Hailing from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, the 29 year old, had been eagerly waiting for his doctorate studies in Australia.

But after almost a year of delay, Ananth’s visa application was formally rejected on July 19 and it was imperative that he would not be able to take up his scholarship studies at Melbourne Uni.

In his reply to DIPB, Ananth pointed out that his research was “using fundamental mathematical models that are available in published literature and text books, which are freely available to anyone from an academic institute like IIT Kanpur”.

Ananth also appealed that he had “never been involved, even remotely, in any religious or political organisations that could spread some form of hatred”.

But the Department of Immigration did not change its decision.

Terming it as “Adverse Information received” – DIPB said Ananth’s application will be refused and that no further reasons for the determination could be given.

Ananth then wrote to Indian National Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, chair of India’s External Affairs Committee of parliament.

Mr Tharoor wrote on his behalf to Australian High Commissioner in India, blasting the decision.

Mr Tharoor wrote to the “High Commissioner privately over email”… that such an action clubbed “Indian nationals working in certain sectors with those of rogue nuclear states like North Korea and Pakistan”.

Mr Tharoor in a separate letter to India’s Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, raised the issue of the unacceptable position that an Indian scholar could be subjected to such a bizarre suspicion…

cast suspicion on his motives’ and implied he could be involved in the ‘proliferation of weapons of mass destruction’”

Mr Tharoor urged India’s minster Ms Swaraj “to talk to her Australian counterpart as it ‘entails serious implications for our bilateral relations with the Commonwealth of Australia’”.

Shashi Tharoor letterTerming the decision as “bizarre” Mr Tharoor has managed to spark angry demands for a diplomatic protest in India.

Australia has also professed to be a strong supporter of India’s peaceful use of nuclear energy and in 2014 signed the Australia-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.

After the agreement to sell uranium to India, this unduly strange decision is being perceived as ‘hypocritic’ by Australia in that India may be perceived as a ‘rouge’ nation in proliferation of nuclear power.

In June, Australia had formally backed India to join the global club of nuclear suppliers, when The Indian PM Modi was visiting United States.

University of Melbourne Professor Richard Sandberg of the Department of Mechanical Engineering told Fairfax that he was surprised when Ananth had been refused a visa.

Prof Sandberg has supervised other international students – including from India – carrying out similar research, Fairfax confirmed.

Mr Professor Sandberg said the proposed research was not involved in developing technology but had fundamental applications, including in aircraft engines or wind turbines for renewable energy.

“I’m really upset, I have worked hard to secure this offer,” Ananth told Fairfax on Wednesday.

He said he was sure the rejection would have disastrous consequences for his career as it would “follow me wherever I go… My career is going to end before it gets started,” he said.

Ananth has also feels that he has been made a “scapegoat”.

Ananth further lamented that although “Australia has clearly acknowledged India’s record on non-proliferation”… yet he had “been denied justice”.

The Australian High commission spokesperson in Indian said that it would not comment on specific visa-related cases due to reasons of privacy and official process.

Ramakrishna VenuGopal

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