Australia apologises to India for attacks on students
The government was in damage control on Monday after a spate of attacks on Indians studying in Australia.
"I speak on behalf of all Australians when I say that we deplore and condemn these attacks," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told the parliament in Canberra.
He confirmed he had telephoned his Indian counterpart at the weekend to apologise for attacks that have left one student with severe burns and another with stab wounds.
"I said to Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh that the more than 90,000 Indian students in Australia are welcome guests in our country ... and the more than 200,000 Australians of Indian descent are welcome members of the Australian family."
More than 1,000 members of the Indian community marched through Melbourne on Sunday to vent their anger at the attacks and the perceived inadequacies of the police in dealing with them.
The spate of attacks - the marchers called them hate crimes - are big news in India and have prompted Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan to refuse an honorary doctorate offered by the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.
Indian students represent about 18 per cent of foreign students and are worth 2 billion Australian dollars ($1.6 billion) to the economy.
Opposition Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull also condemned the muggings and beatings.
"These students are guests in our country and this recent violent behaviour has the potential to do great damage to the reputation of Australia as a destination of choice," he said. "We could not imagine modern Australia today without the contribution of the Indian communities present among us."