Indian government’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson has responded to the alleged interference by the Indian High Commission in Australia India Institute’s (AII) academic freedom.
Mr Arindam Bagchi stated that AII was established by the Australian Government in partnership with the University of Melbourne. It is funded by the Australian government and other local institutions.
He said that the Government of India has “no right in taking the decision of this institution.” Further, the reports of the Indian High Commission in Australia being dragged into this matter and controversy are unfair.
“The institute was set up by the Australian govt in partnership with the University of Melbourne and funded by the Australian government and institutions. GoI has no say in the decision-making of this institute.”
On March 29, fellows mostly associated with Left ideology signed and sent a letter to Melbourne University vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell.
These thirteen academics from various Australian universities quit their affiliation as fellow of the Melbourne-based AII.
In this letter they alleged that the Indian High Commission and its representatives have repeatedly interfered with AII’s work and research.
Without providing any concrete proof, these fellows asserted that views that are anti-India are not given platform at the insitution.
Mr Bagchi added:
“As far as academic freedom in Australia is concerned, this is for the Australian authorities to respond to. I do believe that the authorities of the Institute of Melbourne have made their position clear to it.”
The University of Melbourne in a statement said that it “is committed to academic freedom and freedom of speech.”
It further added that “the University has been working on strengthening our policies in this area for the past two years and take any allegations of this nature very seriously.”
However, The Australia Today has found out from a highly placed source who doesn’t wish to reveal their identity that under the garb of academic freedom this attack is directly on former Senator and present CEO of AII, Ms Lisa Singh.
The source told us that there is murky internal politics involved as some of these fellows were not happy on Ms Singh’s appointment. These academics had reportedly discussed the selection of the next CEO at length and wished a candidate of their choice and ideological leaning to be appointed as the next CEO of AII.
Ms Singh is granddaughter of an Indo-Fijian member of the Parliament of Fiji and was also Australia’s first female federal parliamentarian of Indian origin. As a Senator, she focused on the foreign affairs, trade and international development, multiculturalism and refugees, and human rights.
Ms Singh is known to be of upright independent thinking. She is well-known for taking a stance against Labor Party’s position on Australia’s offshore detention of asylum seekers.
As CEO of AII Ms Singh has in a short period involved herself in actively promoting support for and understanding of the bilateral relationship with India.
The source also questioned the timing of this resignation that coincided with the signing of the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement.
WATCH VIDEO: GoI has no right in taking decision of Melbourne’s Australia India Institute: MEA