Declaring that Asia's rise is "unstoppable", Australia on Sunday unveiled an ambitious plan aimed at forging deeper links with India and other booming economies of the region, including through teaching languages like Hindi and Mandarin in its schools.
"While Australia was changing — Asia was changing too. Whatever else this century brings, it will bring Asia's return to global leadership, Asia's rise," said Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who was recently on her maiden official visit to India.
"This (Asia's rise) is not only unstoppable, it is gathering pace," Gillard said, releasing a sweeping policy blueprint entitled 'Asian Century White Paper' aimed at maximising links with Asia which will power Australia into the world's top 10 wealthiest nations by 2025.
Above all, success for an open Australia in a middle-class Asia starts in the classrooms, training centres and lecture theatres of this nation, the Prime Minister said.
All Australian schools will engage with at least one school in Asia to support the teaching of a priority Asian language — Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian or Japanese, she said.
"Unlike in ages past, we will not settle for a student sitting at the back of the class not learning and then drifting away from school early. We can no longer tell ourselves this is all okay because a manual job will materialize for the child who cannot read, write or count," she said.
Gillard also mentioned that Australia was a friend to all countries.
"We are supporting the stabilising presence of the United States, a strong Defence Force, building habits of trust and cooperation in our region," she said, adding "We have an ally in Washington — respect in Beijing — and more, an open door in Jakarta and Delhi, Tokyo and Seoul."
Focusing on Asia, she said the region will be home to most of the world's middle class by as early as 2025. "This is good news for Australia and it should drive a profound change in our thinking about our economic relationship with Asia."