Australia's foreign minister on Tuesday told parliament some of the recent violence against Indian students had clearly been racially motivated and had "considerably damaged" the nation's reputation.
Stephen Smith offered his government's condolences to the family of Indian nationals attacked in Australia, telling lawmakers that repairing the subsequent damage to the country's image was an "essential priority".
"Recent contemptible attacks on Indian students and others of Indian origin in Australia have cast a long shadow, not only over our education links, but across our broader relationship and bilateral agenda," Smith said in an update to parliament on relations between the two nations.
"If any of these attacks have been racist in nature -- and it seems clear some of them have -- they will be punished with the full force of the law. Such attacks affront our values and are anathema to our view of modern Australia."
Australian officials had previously downplayed racism as a motive for the attacks on Indians, which have prompted media outrage in India and threatened to damage Australia's 15.4-billion-US-dollar education export industry.
Smith said the attacks, which have included robberies and beatings, were "inexcusable" and were being taken "very seriously."
"We also need to accept and to understand that it has considerably damaged Australia's reputation in India and among the Indian people. Indeed, it has been widely noticed beyond India and South Asia," he added.
Diplomatic tensions between Canberra and New Delhi mounted following the unsolved murder of 21-year-old Punjab man Nitin Garg in Melbourne, with New Delhi expressing "absolute displeasure and concern" over the violence.
The foreign minister said Delhi was "in the front rank" of Australia's international partnerships, with as many as 450,000 Indians living in Australia, 120,000 of them students.
Many found themselves in a "higher risk profile for crime" because of where they lived and the kinds of work they did, which Smith said didn't excuse the violence but "may help to explain why some attacks are happening."
"While Australia is one of the world's most tolerant countries and one the safest, we cannot promise to stop all urban crime. No government can credibly do that," he said.
"What we are promising is to make a whole-of-nation and whole-of-government commitment to do our best to address this problem and minimise it."