Australia's image in India has been damaged after attacks on Indian students, Canberra's envoy to New Delhi John McCarthy has said, adding that "India's voracious 24-hour cable news channels helped stoke the wave of fear and outrage among Indians in both countries".
"It's done damage. You can't have three weeks of that sort of television without the perception of Australia among Indians being damaged. The question is how much?" McCarthy was quoted as saying by a newspaper, The Australian.
McCarthy said while bilateral relationship with India - including talks over a free-trade agreement - would probably remain unaffected from the fallout, but the new negative perception of Australia would linger.
"Two or three stories go on and on, and very violent and disturbing pictures are shown over and over again. What happens then is immediately people with relatives in Australia get on the phone. This seems to cause far more debate about the situation. Then you get the next stage, which is probably a demonstration, which looks much worse, and it fuels on itself," he said.
The attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney has dominated Indian media headlines for more than a fortnight. At least 11 Indians have been attacked or mugged in the past month that students here have described as racial violence or "curry bashing".
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last week condemned the attacks and called them "regrettable fact of urban life".
Rudd has also called up Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to assure him that Australia is doing all it can to address the problem.
McCarthy said most Indian media eventually gave context to the attacks by reporting that many victims lived in outer suburbs and took public transport late at night, making them more vulnerable to crime.
But the cable channels were "dominated to a significant extent by the comments coming out of the student unions which did not always reflect the total student membership or the Indian community".
McCarthy said Australia had almost 95,000 Indians students and "they haven't all been writing letters and emails. A number of them have been saying 'we're fine'. But they weren't the ones getting heard".
"My sense is we will overcome it, but it's going to take time and it's going to need a pretty close look at how we prepare students for Australia. We need to be much more conscious of their safety," he added.