Under mounting pressure over attacks on Indians, Australia on Monday acknowledged that some of the recent violence against them had clearly been “racially motivated” and vowed to “punish the culprits with the full force of law”.
Stating that the attacks had “considerably damaged” the nation’s reputation, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told the Parliament that “if any of these attacks have been racist in nature – and it seems clear that some of them have – they will be punished with the full force of law”.
Smith said the attacks which have included robberies and beatings are “inexcusable” and were being taken very seriously by the government.
The foreign minister intervened on the matter after the government came in for a sharp attack from the opposition which accused the Victorian government of failing to tackle the racist attacks on Indians.
Even Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that he was worried over the narration by his Asian-origin son-in-law of racisms in Australia. Rudd said that his government’s efforts were aimed at improving safety of foreign students who worked late at night.
Leaders and officials in Australian had earlier down played racism as a motive for attacks on Indians which have triggered outrage in India.
Smith’s remarks came just ahead of Indian High Commissioner Sujatha Singh’s visit to New Delhi to brief the government on the steps taken by Australia to prevent attacks on Indians. Singh is expected to be in New Delhi this week.
Describing the attacks as “contemptible”, Smith said these had cast a long shadow over relationship and ties with India and said these were an “affront to our values and are anathema to a view of modern Australia.”
Giving an update on the issue, the minister said, “we need to accept that it has considerably damaged Australia’s reputation in India and among the Indian people. Indeed, it has widely been noticed beyond India and South Asia.”
Offering condolences to the families of Indians attacked in Australia, Smith told the lawmakers that repairing the damage to the country’s image was an “essential priority.”
The foreign minister assured that India “was in the front rank” of nations in Australia’s international
partnership and was fast emerging as nation’s third biggest export market behind China and Japan.
The two way trade between the two countries was nearly 22 billion Australian dollars last year, registering a quantum jump of 55 per cent. And a number of Indian companies were showing great interest in investing in Australia not only in mineral resources but agriculture and IT.
Addressing the Indian nationals in his country, Smith said, “we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that the children, Indian parents have entrusted to our care, remain safe and go back home with first class education.”