Canberra, Feb.9 (ANI): Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith on Tuesday described the series of racially-motivated attacks against Indians, particularly students, in the country as inexcusable, and urged the government and all Australians to view the matter very seriously.
Addressing Parliament here, Smith said: "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. These attacks are inexcusable. Australia needs to take this seriously and we are taking it very seriously."
"We also need to accept and 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. On behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian people, I again express publicly, as I have privately to my counterpart External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, my deep sympathy and condolences to those Indians who have had family members in Australia attacked and in some tragic cases, murdered," he added.
He said that police forces in Australia are investigating all incidents so that those responsible for the attacks are brought to justice.
"We will continue to do our utmost to ensure that the children Indian parents have entrusted into the care of the Australian community remain safe and come home with a first class education and a great Australian experience. We have zero tolerance for racism in this country. 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," Smith said.
"Let us be absolutely clear about this: the Australian Government and Australian community condemn all such attacks, irrespective of nationality or ethnicity. The Australian Government and the Australian community unequivocally condemn any attack which is racially motivated.
Such attacks affront our values and are anathema to our view of the modern Australia. Australia and India are countries for which the rule of law is fundamental. The rule of law means that we allow the processes of investigation, prosecution and sentencing to take their course. That is what we are doing. Governments at all levels in Australia are working together to address this problem," Smith said.
He informed that law enforcement agencies have brought perpetrators of attacks to justice in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland.
In Victoria alone some 45 people have been arrested for crimes against Indian students or nationals and perpetrators are being pursued with vigour, the foreign minister said.
Smith said Indian citizens are welcome guests in Australia, and added that Indian-Australians make a most important contribution to the fabric of our multicultural society.
"We want to ensure that international students, whether from India or elsewhere, obtain a quality education, can support themselves financially, and have a positive experience in Australia. The safety issue has revealed deficiencies in our education and visa arrangements for international students. Australian Governments at all levels have moved to address those deficiencies," he said.
He said that he was in regular touch with Indian Foreign Minister Krishna and had informed of latest developments on issues arising from attacks on Indians in Australia. Krishna, he said, would be informed this week by the Australian High Commission in New Delhi and through the Indian High Commission in Canberra of further developments, he added.
"We need goodwill and consistent leadership on both sides to deal with the challenges this matter has identified," he concluded. (ANI)