Sydney, March 30 (IANS) Julia Gillard, then the deputy prime minister of Australia, visited India in 2009 after a series of attacks on Indian students in the country, but the visit was a “wasted opportunity” that did nothing to address the anger in India, according to WikiLeaks cables.
Shabbir Wahid, former Australian consul general to Mumbai, said Gillard spent more time talking to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about educational opportunities rather than the violence against Indian students, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Wahid, a prominent Melbourne businessman, told the US consulate in Melbourne that Australia was missing substantial commercial opportunities in India.
Gillard was also the education minister at that time.
“According to Wahid, Gillard focused too narrowly on her education minister portfolio, coming away from her meeting with PM Singh with only vague commitments,” then US Consul General Michael Thurston wrote in a cable from the Melbourne consulate Oct 20, 2009.
A visit by the then Victorian premier John Brumby was “similarly ineffective”, the state’s treasurer John Lenders said to Thurston.
“High-level visits by Australian officials have had only a limited impact on cooling tempers still hot from a spike in violence,” Thurston wrote.
The then foreign minister, Stephen Smith, compared the India-Australia relationship to a 20/20 cricket match, saying: “Short bursts of enthusiasm followed by lengthy periods of inactivity.”
According to the cables, Manmohan Singh described India and Australia as “countries with so much in common, but so little to do with one another”.
Citing a report by Australia’s Tourism Forecasting Committee (TFC), the BBC reported there were more than 70,000 Indians studying in Australia in 2009.