It seems, 2018 augur well for India and Indian Australians. Only two weeks into it, the Andrews Labor Government launched its India strategy and the premier went flew to India on his first official visit as state premier which had trade, education as the main focus with cricket and cultural ties thrown in the mix as sweeteners.

The strategy is an ambitious blueprint aimed at growing exports to India, attracting more international students to enrol at our world-leading education providers and encouraging more people from India to experience for themselves the best of everything a visit to Victoria can offer.

Unveiling Victoria’s India Strategy: Our Shared Future ahead of his visit to India, the premier said:

“This blueprint is all about expanding our footprint in one of the world’s leading economies, which will boost Victorian businesses and create jobs for locals. We have a plan and we’re getting it done”, Premier Andrews said.

The government claims to have worked closely with leaders and industry experts from the Australian Indian community on ways to make Victoria’s bond with India even stronger.

According to the Andrews government, the strategy will create jobs and grow the Victorian economy by:
• Doubling the value of goods exports – such as food and manufacturing goods – to India from a five-year annual average of $500 million to almost $1 billion by 2027

• Increasing the number of Indian postgraduate research students in Victoria by 25 per cent

• Doubling the number of Victorian businesses engaged in India from 150 to 300

• Nearly tripling the expenditure by Indian visitors to Victoria to $885 million.

Then, to sell our strengths as a world-class destination for international education, tourism, sports, culture and innovation, Premier Andrews was off to India.
While in Delhi, Premier Daniel Andrews visited Bluebells School International in Delhi and participated in a school lesson conducted via skype with Bluebells’ Victorian sister school, Rangebank Primary School in Cranbourne.

Victorian school students will have the opportunity to travel to India on a new cultural exchange program as part of a Victorian Government strategy to strengthen Victoria’s economic and cultural ties with India.

Education being a key focus of the strategy, three new initiatives were also announced:

• A new two-year Victorian Young Leaders to India pilot which will see up to 200 Victorian Year 7-9 students and 25 teachers travel to India and complete two to four-week immersion programs

• A two-year Women in School Leadership Program that helps female school leaders, including principals and senior teachers, from Victoria and India to share knowledge related to school leadership, change management and Education State priorities

• A two-year Victorian Schools and Indian Diaspora Partnerships Program to deepen Victorian schools’ engagement with India by harnessing the knowledge of the Indian diaspora to develop and support partnerships between schools in India and Victoria.

Also, cashing in on the fact that the largest number of Indian Australian migrants live in Victoria, Premier Andrews told the Indians that Victoria was most welcoming place for Indians in Australia.
Cricket Victoria CEO, Tony Dodamiade also travelled to India to attend a cricket clinic organised by Visit Victoria for children of Asha, an organisation for underprivileged children, in Delhi.

Around 110,000 Indians visited Victoria last year and the government would like to encourage more Indians to visit Melbourne and other destinations in Victoria. To pitch that argument the premier cited the fact that “Victoria is home for more Indian Australians than any other part of Australia.”

This was also an important opportunity for Visit Victoria to push and partner with more travel businesses here in India to facilitate increased travel from India to Victoria.

Tourism Ambassador for Tourism Victoria in India
An idea of appointing a cricketer as a Tourism Ambassador for Tourism Victoria in India, was mooted, basing the argument on strong cricketing relationship between India and the region. Premier chose not to rule that out saying although tourism is just one component of the whole India strategy, they will still look at the opportunity of recruiting cricketers of Victorian and Indian fame to “help tell the story of the close links between Melbourne and India, and Australia and India.”

Matthew Guy will go a step further
A new sister-state relationship with India

Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has announced that if elected, a Liberal Nationals government will further deepen ties with India through the establishment of a sister-state relationship between Victoria and an Indian state.

“A sister-state relationship with an Indian state will promote Victoria as a desirable destination to live, study, do business and visit, allowing all Victorians to benefit from the social, economic and business opportunities created by our diaspora communities.”

It is our firm belief therefore that the Indian community in Victoria should play a key role in helping us to select which Indian state Victoria should partner with. This will be done through wide consultation with the Indian community, and a formal submission process.

Not openly refuting the Andrews government’s claim of wider consultations with the Indian diaspora for developing its India strategy, an email was circulated by the Hon. Inga Peulich’s office asking among other things:

. I’m interested to know if you know of anyone in your industry, sector or among your business colleagues in the Indian diaspora in Victoria who may have been involved in the consultation process for the purpose of developing the attached strategy.

This clearly explains Opposition’s specific and emphatic “mention” of their belief that the Indian community should play a key role in Victoria’s relations with India and Indian state(s).

One should not be surprised to know many policies these days are developed by number-crunching people who are experts on paper, in paper and for white, yellow or green paper and can prepare policies in no time (as required) to suit the direction (read political agenda) of the government of the day, positioning itself for the next one, if not two to three terms.

Some people have the view that consultations may take place, but in many cases the outcome is pre-decided.

Whatever ensues from here on, the good thing at least is that India is seemingly more important this 2018, whoever wins the next election. As a result of that, we may see our politicians asking Indian Australians to play a bigger than before role in the making of our state of Victoria. – DM with K. Dev

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