Indian Engineer Student Banned in a ‘Bizarre’ Visa Refusal
July 21, 2016
The Australian government recently banned a young Indian student from accepting a prestigious scholarship to study in Melbourne because it feared his engineering research may help to spread weapons of mass destruction.
Ananth SM is a 29-year-old aerospace engineer from southern India who was offered a scholarship by the University of Melbourne to study a PhD in fluid mechanics.
After months of delay, Mr Ananth was informed that he would be unable to accept the scholarship. The Department of Foreign Affairs told him that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop denied his entry to Australia.
The reason? He was deemed to be “a person whose presence in Australia may be directly or indirectly associated with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
India labelled the decision as “bizarre” and has responded angrily, as they claim Australia is treating India as a “rogue nuclear state.”
This comes despite the Coalition government stating that India has an “impeccable record” of non-proliferation less than a year ago.
Mr Ananth appealed to the Department, explaining that his research was founded on “freely available” mathematical models.”
He also told the Department that he had “never been involved, even remotely, in any religious or political organisations that could spread some form of hatred.”
But the Department maintained its stance, which Mr Ananth says will drastically impact his career prospects.
“I’m really upset, I have worked hard to secure this offer,” he said.
“My career is going to end before it gets started … The areas I have worked on are not at all related to the creation of weaponry.”
And it’s not just India who is puzzled by the visa refusal.
Professor Richard Sandberg, an academic at the University of Melbourne who offered Mr Ananth the scholarship, said he was surprised, and has supervised other international students carrying out similar research.
He said Mr Ananth made a strong application and was part of a group who had performed well at Cambridge University.
Shasi Tharoor, a prominent Indian MP, has been particularly scathing of the controversial decision, claiming the decision is not one of a “friendly nation”.
“How an Indian scholar could be subject to such a bizarre suspicion … is unacceptable,” he said.
Dr Tharoor has written to India’s External Affairs Minister about the matter, saying that this case may impact relations between the countries.
Australia also banned two nuclear officials from India in 2008, however this is the first time an Indian scientist has been denied entry in what India and Australia’s leaders dub the era of “strategic partnership.”
Mr Ananth told Fairfax he wanted to study overseas and become an academic researcher.