Melbourne, June 13 (ANI): The Australian High Commissioner in New Delhi, John McCarthy, has said that his country's relationship with India has been damaged by attacks on Indian students, and it will take time to recover.
McCarthy said India's voracious 24-hour cable news channels had helped stoke the wave of fear and outrage among Indians in both countries.
He said while our bilateral relationship with India, including talks over a free-trade agreement, would probably remain quarantined from the fallout, the new, negative perception of Australia would linger.
"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?
"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," The Australian quoted McCarthy, as saying.
The attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney have dominated Indian media headlines for more than a fortnight. Tourism operators, Australian universities and other educational institutes are bracing for an expected backlash.
McCarthy, who ends a distinguished 41-year diplomatic career in August, has spent weeks in damage control mode, giving interviews and meeting people to try to dispel the notion the attacks were all racially motivated.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has also phoned his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, to assure him 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," he added. (ANI)