Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Under Secretary of State William Burns, said she was assured that the US State Department will alleviate the plight of the Indian students caught up in the Tri Valley University visa scam.
Briefing the media at the Indian embassy in Washington, Rao noted that Clinton was fully aware of the situation following External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's call to her from New York on February 13 asking her to use her good offices to offer some relief to the hapless students.
'The External Affairs Minister had detailed discussions on this and Clinton is fully aware of it. She has assured us that the officials in the US state department will give this full attention to the problem faced by Indian students," the foreign secretary said. "My intention therefore, was to take it up with Under Secretary Bill Burns in a very detailed fashion to underscore our concerns and our desire that this matter be resolved."
Rao also pointed out that on Monday, Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar had also provided a detailed communication to Clinton on Krishna's instructions following his telephonic conversation with Clinton.
"So, all the information that they require on this issue in terms of how we view it and our approach to it has been clearly enunciated to the American side," she added.
Rao said, "I underscored and stressed our concern about the large numbers of students -- bona-fide students -- who have been adversely affected by the events surrounding the Tri Valley University and the uncovering of this scam. I said our concern was that the future of these students should not be affected and to whatever extent possible the students, many of them not involved in any illegal or negative activity, should be accommodated in other universities. They should be enabled to transfer to other universities without detriment or without any disadvantage."
Rao said, "I was assured by Under Secretary Burns that the US government is looking at providing a fair solution to this very, very real and critical problem that many of the students face."
She also said the embassy in Washington is going to be in touch with the US State Department on this issue over the next few days. "Our emphasis has been on seeking a solution that will help the students who have been affected by this unfortunate development and enable them to find alternative placements in bona-fide universities without affecting their future," she added.
When it was pointed out that the majority of students embroiled in this controversy who were enrolled at TVU were from Andhra Pradesh and if the Indian was looking into any unscrupulous agents working in tandem with shysters in the California university, Rao said, "From the point of view of ensuring that such things don't happen again, I think obviously we need to put in place certain safeguards that prevent innocent students from being duped."
But she said however, that as of now, "The action of course, has to begin on the American side -- the proper investigation into who these people were, who set up this so-called institution, and how they could have flourished."
"That investigation obviously has to be done very meticulously and very comprehensively," Rao said, but reiterated, "If there are links with agents or individuals in Andhra Pradesh or on the Indian side, the processes of the law would have to be properly pursued as far as they are concerned."
Rao took strong exception to the contention that the Indian 'brand' of students had been hurt by this controversy because it was plausible that a minority of the students may also have been complicit in this fraud. "I don't believe it will affect the image of Indian students coming to this country," she said. "There is enormous appreciation, and I can sense that in our conversations with our American friends and indeed with the US government, that they see the intellectual levels of our students, who rank among the best anywhere in the world."
"That inflow of students from India will continue and should not be affected by what has happened," she added.
Calling this incident an aberration, Rao pointed out that there are over 1,00,000 students from India who come to US for university education and who excel in the fields which they have chosen. "This is the prevailing and overriding image of Indian students in this country. That has not changed," she said.
Rao said, the vast majority of the students enrolled in TVU were not suspected of any illegal activity, but were unfortunately caught up in this sham.
US proud to host Indian students: Roemer
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer has underscored the commitment of his country to proudly welcome foreign students and to assure them that they have the most positive and constructive experience possible.
The ambassador said, "The US is very proud to host the more than 1,00,000 Indian students studying in America -- these students are an important and contributing part of the American academic community."
"As a father, I understand the joy of seeing a child focus on their studies and succeed and as the US representative in India, I ensure that my team is fully committed to helping students make the best informed educational decisions possible," he said
Assuring free and fair treatment to the duped students, Roemer said, "We are working closely with the Indian government on the issue of Tri Valley University and ensuring the fair and appropriate treatment of Indian students."