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NEW DELHI: India's foreign minister urged Australia on Saturday to ease coronavirus travel restrictions for thousands of students who have been unable to get into the country since the pandemic started 18 months ago. India sends tens of thousands of students to top international universities worldwide with Australia among the key destinations.

Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said he raised the issue "in some detail" with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne alongside talks between defence ministers from both countries dominated by Afghanistan. "We have heard a lot from the students and I think their frustrations, their feelings, are completely understandable," Jaishankar told reporters.

"Many of them would like to be at the institutions where they want to study," adding students were "a very high priority" for his government, which has also faced hurdles with the US and Canada. "We have been having some problems with some other countries as well. We had initially with the US, we are still having some issues with Canada," he added.

India also made approaches to Britain before it eased travel restrictions. And videos of Indian medical students enrolled in China went viral recently as they pleaded with the government to help them return to their universities. University education is now a multi-billion dollar industry and Australia is one of several countries to have aggressively campaigned to attract Indian students.

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