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Australia says some attacks on Indian students race-based

Australia's High Commissioner to India said Wednesday that race may have played a role in some of violent attacks against Indian students that have threatened ties between the two countries.

delhi Updated: Jan 06, 2010 19:28 IST

Australia's High Commissioner to India said Wednesday that race may have played a role in some of violent attacks against Indian students that have threatened ties between the two countries.

The admission came after India advised thousands of its citizens studying in Australia to take "basic" precautions against possible assault following the murder of a 21-year-old Indian national in Melbourne last week.

High Commissioner Peter Varghese told reporters in New Delhi that his country had "never denied that there has never been a racial element to any of these attacks in Australia".

He labelled the majority of assaults involving Indian nationals "opportunistic urban crime" but added "there have been some cases where the motivation would appear on the face of it to be racial, particularly where the attackers have been engaged in hurling racial abuse".

The murder of Nitin Garg followed a string of attacks against Indians that triggered street protests in Sydney and Melbourne last June.

Indian students account for 19 percent of total international enrolments in Australia, taking 117,000 places in the 12 months to October 2009.

On Tuesday, Australia's Acting Foreign Minister Simon Crean said there was "no evidence" that Garg's murder was racially-motivated.

Australian officials have also downplayed any racial aspect to the attacks, saying jobs that Indian students do to support their education meant they were often in dangerous areas or on public transport late at night.

But the killing has prompted wide press coverage in India where one newspaper described the death as proof of "racist attacks on the Indian community".

Varghese said Garg's murder had "distressed" Australians and he warned against jumping to conclusions.

"We must let police and the criminal justice system do their work," he said. "Let's not assume that every time an Indian is involved in an incident it's a matter of racism".