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Australia's global image hit by attacks on Indians, says expert

world Updated: Oct 14, 2010 15:39 IST

AFP
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Australia was seen as a "pariah state" by a growing number of countries after violent attacks against Indian students badly damaged its global standing, a public diplomacy expert said on Thursday.

Branding guru Simon Anholt has advised 45 governments across the world on questions of national identity and reputation, and conducts an annual poll of 26,000 people worldwide to gauge international attitudes.

Australia is consistently ranked ninth out of 50 countries and is considered the world's most beautiful country, as well as its most desirable "if money was no object" travel destination.

But Anholt said widespread publicity about crime against Indian students in the southern city of Melbourne, including muggings, beatings and a murder, had soured global views of Australia as a just and friendly nation.

"It's not just in India, there's a sort of faint echo of the same response in a number of other countries, and it just so happens that those countries include China and Brazil," Anholt told AFP.

For Indians Australia had become a "rogue nation," he said, with its equality ranking falling from 4th to 34th since 2008 and its standing on the question "would you like to have a friend in this country?" down from 7th to 20th.

Indians had gone from counting Australia as the fifth most welcoming country in the world, to 46th of 50 in 2010, he said.

Diplomatic ties with New Delhi were strained by the violence, and concerns over racism were stoked this month by revelations of an offensive email circulating among police officers showing an Indian man being electrocuted.

In Sydney to address an international education conference, Anholt said it wasn't a question of Indians hating Australians, rather "they're afraid that Australia hates them".

"(Australia) is a pariah state, and you can see it reflected in countries as far away as Mexico, South Korea.

"There are indications of falls in a great number of countries, some of which you would imagine didn't have very much connection with Australia."

As global influence swung towards Asia, he said it was critical that Australia carefully considered its image and what role it wanted to play as a "significant middle power" in the region.

"It occupies a really interesting strategic position in that region and could be an important player," said Anholt.

"But it's going to be difficult if it's not taken seriously."