New Delhi: Against the backdrop of continuing concerns in India over targeting of Indians in his country, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith arrives here later on Tuesday on a three-day trip that will also have counter-terrorism and friendly hockey diplomacy on the agenda.
Smith's visit to India starts with a meeting with Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.
The two ministers are expected to discuss burgeoning economic relations and progress in a feasibility study undertaken to explore the possibilities of a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and Australia.
It will be time for some hockey diplomacy in the night. Smith will join Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal to watch Australia and India play a Hockey World Cup game that the two sides have designated "Friendship Match".
A hockey buff, Smith had played in the under-age hockey team for his home state of Western Australia. The match will also mix fusion music as William Barton enthrals crowds with the didgeridoo, an ancient instrument crafted by Australia's indigenous people from hollowed out wood.
Serious diplomacy will take over on Wednesday when Smith will hold talks with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, their second meeting after the two met in London January-end, on a wide range of bilateral issues, including the security of Indian students in Australia.
"I will brief the Indian government on the actions taken by authorities to create a safe and rewarding study environment for Indian students in Australia," Smith said in a statement in Melbourne prior to his departure.
"Krishna and I will discuss Australia's and India's close cooperation in trying to solve the recent problems faced by some Indians in Australia," he added.
There have been a series of visits to India by top Australian leaders, including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his deputy Julia Gillard, to allay concerns in the wake of assaults on Indian students that are suspected by many in India to be racist in nature despite Canberra's denials.
The assaults on Indian students started in May last year, putting bilateral ties under stress.
Smith will also brief the Indian government on Australia's recently announced Counter-Terrorism White Paper and discuss security arrangements for the Commonwealth Games here later this year. Besides, he will visit the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main venue for the October Commonwealth Games.
There have been concerns about security in the aftermath of terror threats by Pakistan-based militants to international sporting events in India, including the ongoing Hockey World Cup.
The two sides will explore greater cooperation in the area of education when Smith meets Sibal for talks on Wednesday evening, his last official engagement before he goes to Singapore on Thursday morning.