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Australia says India ties unaffected by attacks

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said on Tuesday that ties with India had not been undermined by a series of recent attacks against Indians living in Australia.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2010 15:14 IST

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said on Tuesday that ties with India had not been undermined by a series of recent attacks against Indians living in Australia.

The unsolved stabbing murder of 21-year-old Nitin Garg earlier this month caused anger among Indians in Australia and overseas, and prompted India's External Affairs Minister SM Krishna to suggest it would hurt ties.

But Smith said he had spoken with his Indian counterpart on Monday and had been assured that the nations enjoyed an "excellent relationship".

"We both agreed this was an issue we did not want to disturb or get in the way of what the external affairs minister described as an excellent relationship," he told reporters.

Smith's comments follow the release of a statement from India's foreign ministry on Monday that said Krishna had conveyed "his deep concern" over the attacks during the telephone conversation.

Krishna "emphasised to the Australian foreign minister that non-redressal of this vital issue will cast a shadow on otherwise excellent bilateral relations," it said.

Smith said he relayed to the minister his condolences on the death of Garg, an accounting graduate who was stabbed to death as he made his way to work in Melbourne's western suburbs on January 2.

The murder follows a spate of violence against Indian students in Melbourne over the past 18 months that has included beatings, robberies and stabbings and has threatened Australia's education industry.

Police believe the vast majority of the attacks are not racially motivated and say there is nothing to suggest Garg's killing was a race hate crime.

Smith said he told Krishna that Australia's Victorian state police were treating Garg's case "as one of its highest priorities".

"I undertook to keep him informed of any developments in the investigation," he added.