Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott today kicked off his three-day visit to India with the launch of an education pact titled the 'New Colombo Plan' at the Mumbai University today.
The New Colombo Plan is a concept of collective inter-governmental efforts to strengthen the economic and social development of member countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Its primary focus is on human resources development.
"I feel honoured to be here in this great hall of learning to help launch in India the 'New Colombo Plan'. I say this is a great hall of learning because there are few institutions of learning anywhere in the world, which have done as much to spread this light of knowledge as this great university of Mumbai," said Abbott.
The Australian prime minister noted that while thousands of Indians are flocking to Australia every year to study, the reverse trend has been drastically different.
"There are just a few tens of Australian students studying in India. It must change, and it will change as a result of the New Colombo Plan that I launched at the University of Mumbai," Abbot said.
"From next year, there will be hundreds of Australian students in India, in the years to come those numbers will mount further, so there will be thousands of Australian students here in India experiencing the richness and the depth of the learning and the culture that this great country has to contribute to us and to the wider world. There is so much that we can learn from each other," he added.
Paying a tribute to Mumbai University, Abbott said, "I want to pay tribute to this university for preserving the universal wisdom of mankind, for doing what it can to spread the knowledge, the truth, the wisdom and the decency which is at the heart of humanity. You have been doing that since 1857."
India sends the second largest number of international students to Australia afte China, with more than 30,000 Indians granted visas to study in Australia in 2013-14, according to The Australian.
The New Colombo Plan will push the 'Connect to India' initiative by the government, which funds five Indian universities to host at least 30 international students each. The deal is also planned to provide skills training to Indian tradesmen.
Abbott had earlier announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in vocational education and training between the National Skills Development Corporation of India and the Australian Department of Industry.
Australia and India have strong and growing economic and trade ties. India is Australia's fifth largest export market, with total exports of $11.4 billion.
The Australian prime minister is accompanied by a group of senior business leaders on his visit.