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India's young leaders call for change
Auskar Surbakti speaks to a group of young Indian leaders in Australia about the recent rape case in New Delhi that has sparked protests against government inaction to prevent violence against women.

The brutal gang rape of an Indian woman in New Delhi at the end of last year galvanised public outrage against the government.

In the vanguard of the huge protests were many young Indians having their voices heard for the first time.

In recent days a group of young Indian leaders have been in Australia to talk about relations between the two countries and how their generation should tackle the global challenges ahead.

Auskar Surbakti caught up with them.
(Footage of Indian youth leaders playing Australian Rules plays)

AUSKAR SURBAKTI, REPORTER: Australian Rules isn't an easy game for first timers.

NEHA KHANNA, JOURNALIST: You're not going to show that on your TV, are you?

AUSKAR SURBAKTI: But these young leaders from India are giving it a go and along the way learning a bit more about Australia.

NEHA KANNA: When I got an invite as a delegate, I was told it was going to bring together young people from diverse fields, completely different walks of life, from the two countries to one table where they could actually thrash out a whole range of issues.

AUSKAR SURBAKTI: Fifteen young Indian leaders are in Australia as part of the Australia-India Youth Dialogue. They're visiting at a time when relations between the two countries are improving, thanks largely to Canberra's decision just over a year ago to reverse its longstanding ban on selling uranium to India.

For the green light to uranium sales signalled a growing momentum in the relationship. Even those who are wary about all things nuclear stay it's an important step.

BHUVANA ANANA, NGO DIRECTOR: I'm against nuclear power and nuclear weapons in principle. So I'm not - the question of uranium is secondary for me. Now if it's there, what better place to get it from than a stable, well run, well heeled country like Australia rather than some other tempestuous you know sort of source.

(Footage of protests in New Delhi plays)

AUSKAR SURBAKTI: Young people in India have been at the forefront of the recent mass protests on the streets of the capital New Delhi, the scene of last month's deadly gang rape that shocked the nation and the world.

NEHA KANNA: That really shook all of us up and I think that's the time when the youth decided enough was enough. An important message needed to be sent out to the powers that be that perhaps they were not doing their job, that a lot more needed to be done to make our cities, to make our streets safer for women.

AUSKAR SURBAKTI: The ongoing rallies put pressure on the government to act. And authorities are now promising to implement reforms to the way rape cases are handled.

But as their influence at home grows, young Indians are also increasingly setting their sights on the world around them. And the question of China has been raised at the dialogue discussions.

India and China are often perceived as being pitted against each other. But Bhuvana Anana believes that doesn't have to be the case.

BHUVANA ANANA: We've seen China as sort of the elephant in the room. We shouldn't deal with China as a third party. China's got to be as much our friend as Australia should be to India and vice versa. Because I think that could become a bone of contention if we're thinking about the friendship as you either pick them or pick us. And it shouldn't be like that.

AUSKAR SURBAKTI: There seems to be general agreement among these young leaders that relations between Australia and India are on the right track, at least at the government level. But there are concerns about the level of engagement between the people of the two countries, which these leaders say could he lead to ignorance and mistrust on both sides.

(Footage of Indian news reports on attacks on Indian students)

The events of 2009 show how easily the relationship can be derailed. Attacks on Indian students in Australia caused outrage at home.

But Vivek Kumar says people would be surprised by how much Australia and India actually have in common.

VIVEK KUMAR, DIPLOMAT: So we do have the Commonwealth heritage. We have similar legal systems, similar political systems. We both love cricket. And you know all that sort of stuff that goes with it. Still there is an ignorance among people in both countries about each other. And I think that's the biggest challenge that we need to overcome to take this relationship to its next phase.
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