We condemn what is happening against Indians, says Australian envoy | delhi | Hindustan Times
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We condemn what is happening against Indians, says Australian envoy

delhi Updated: Sep 20, 2009 18:20 IST

IANS
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The attack on four Indians in Melbourne last week and a wave of similar violence against students in recent months have had an impact on relations between the two countries, says Australia's envoy who finds it "deeply disappointing" and condemnable that these incidents continue.

"You can't go through this kind of phase without it (violence) having a wider impact. We acknowledge that. But there is a bigger set of common shared interests, which bring our two countries together," acting high commissioner Lachlan Strahan told IANS in an interview.

"I think it is fair to say that we find it deeply disappointing and regrettable that these incidents continue and it is matter of strongest condemnation for our government. Once we get another incident, everyone reacts with a sense of great disappointment and anger that it has happened again."

Strahan, who is standing in before next high commissioner Peter Varghese, a diplomat of Indian origin, takes charge, condemned the incident in the strongest terms but said such attacks should not tar the whole of Australia collectively.

"All of us collectively do not want our name to be blackened by a very small minority. As with any society in the world, you do have a limited number of people, a minority, who might harbour some untoward attitudes and sometimes those attitudes might have a racial tinge. It s regrettable and Australian community condemns that," he said.

His comments come ahead of Victoria state premier John Brumby's visit to India next week to give safety assurances after similar high-profile trips in the last two months by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Evans, Treasurer Wayne Swan and education group manager Colin Walters.

Victoria state has borne the brunt of the violence against Indians and after the latest attack Brumby admitted that the incident had "damaged our brand and the Australian brand in India".

Over the last few months a disturbing side to Indian student life down under has come to light, sparking allegations of racism in Australian society and a failure of law enforcement authorities to act.

The first incident occurred in May when Indian student Sravan Theerthala was confronted by party crashers, one of whom stabbed him in the head with a screwdriver. Since then there have been several other attacks, both racist and opportunistic, in Sydney and Melbourne. The attacks have cast a shadow over an education industry worth over $15 billion where nearly 100,000 Indians are enrolled.

Strahan pointed out that while authorities were putting in extra measures like stepping up police patrols and installing mobile closed circuit television (CCTV), there was no guarantee that such incidents would stop.

"In any big city anywhere in the world you have incidents taking place that involve street crime. And you can't logically say that any government, Indian and Australian, give a 100 percent guarantee that such unfortunate, regrettable incidents won't happen," said Strahan.

"But what you can do is to put in place measures so that law and order is the strongest possible and quick so that you have thorough response.

"Given the large number of Indians in our country, the law of averages would suggest that (violence) might happen."

The acting high commissioner also pointed out that strengthening of student visa checks to stamp out fraud, upgrading interviews and restricting online access to Australia's eVisa system to fewer agents were some of the measures introduced by the Australian government to reinforce the country's standing as a high quality education destination.

"Submitting fraudulent documents or making fraudulent claims in applications by agents on behalf of their student clients is simply unacceptable. These measures are to ensure that genuine students receive high quality education and enjoy their experience in Australia," said Strahan.

"It also gives a clear message that the Australian government will not tolerate fraud in the student visa programme."