India, Australia negotiating social security agreement

New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) India and Australia are negotiating a social security agreement to be finalised ‘at the earliest’ which will spare workers from double payment of social security contributions.

This was decided at the meeting between the visiting Australian minister Stephen Smith and Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi here Thursday.

‘In the minister’s area of responsibility, we spoke about the desirability of india and Australia striking up a social security agreement. We are working very hard on this,’ Smith told reporters after emerging from the meeting at the minister’s residence.

He said that a social security agreement would be of ‘advantage’ to the large Indian diaspora in Australia, who number around 400,000-500,000.

Ravi pointed out that the agreement would be for the ‘protection of workers’ and that India has already signed similar deals with other European countries.

‘We felt that it should be signed at the earliest. This is the major decision that has come out of the meeting,’ he said.

Besides, the visiting Australian minister also said that the issue of safety of Indian students was discussed, with the reiteration of condemnation of any attacks on Indians in Australia.

Smith, who arrived in Delhi Tuesday on a three-day visit, met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the morning.

‘I had the honour of calling on the prime minister and we talked about Australia-India strategic partnership, preparations for Commonwealth Games and the issue of Indian students,’ he said.

He said there was ‘much greater understanding of the efforts that the Australian government and state government have made to minimise the risk to Indian students and other students from overseas studying in Australia.’

Smith reiterated that Australia condemned all attacks on Indian students and ‘particularly find contemptible that any attack that has racist or racial overtones associated with it and we have no tolerance for such conduct.’

There are around 120,000 students of Indian origin studying in Australia.

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