Australia on Wednesday acknowledged that some of the attacks on Indians were racist in nature, causing considerable damage to its reputation among Indian people and said its premier criminal research agency has been roped in to study the issue and suggest remedial measures.
“I acknowledge absolutely that this issue has caused considerable damage to Australia’s reputation among Indian people. We have to work very hard to address that. We have to be open, transparent and upfront about that,” visiting Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told reporters here.
He said some of the attacks are racist in nature or having racial overtones.
“We know that a number of these assaults are racist and have racial overtones. These are absolutely contemptible.
We are doing a range of things in future to better portray modern Australia. We want to underline the strength of relationship between India and Australia,” Mr. Smith said.
However, both the countries have agreed that the issue should not be allowed to affect the bilateral ties which has grown immensely in the last two years, he said.
The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) has been entrusted with the task of studying the issue in depth and ensure whether the government’s response to the attacks has been apt, Mr. Smith said
Giving details about the study entrusted to the AIC, Mr. Smith said the institute, which is a premier agency in criminal justice research, will study the issue from all aspects and examine the response of the Australian government.
“Our police authority in Australia does not keep statistics on the basis of nationality. It has been difficult to do an exhaustive statistical analysis of the assaults. The institute will do the study to get a better understanding of the issue,” he said.
“We want to see whether the Institute of Criminology can give us a deeper and further understanding to make sure that we are responding in a every possible way and that we are doing everything that we can,” Mr. Smith said.
The Minister had a series of meeting in recent months with his Indian counterpart S. M. Krishna over the issue.
“I want to give the message that we have zero tolerance to any such attack. We want to bring the culprits to justice,” he said.
Mr. Smith said there have been convictions in many cases while investigation was going on in 70 cases. “We want to ensure that any visitor to Australia experiences what the people of the country experience,” he said.
Mr. Smith said several initiatives have been taken by his government to check such incidents. “We abhor violence. We abhor these attacks”.
“Minister Krishna and I had a number of conversations on these matters and we agreed that we do not want this issue (attacks on Indians), however, difficult, to adversely reflect on the strength of the relationship,” Smith said.
In last two years, Australia and India have taken the bilateral relationship to a high level. The Prime Ministers of both the countries have signed the strategic partnership in November last year. There has been much higher level of engagements, he said, adding that the purpose of his visit is to advance and pursue the strategic partnership.
Mr. Smith said both India and Australia share certain values which bind the countries together.
“We are both parliamentary democracy. India is the largest democracy of the world and we both respect rule of law and individual human rights,” he said.
Mr. Smith will also discuss with the government the security arrangements for Commonwealth Games and the facilities for the games.
“I am very pleased with the coordination and cooperation that the commonwealth countries are receiving from India over this matter. We need to be absolutely vigilant till the completion of the game,” he said.
“We are satisfied that the Indian authorities are doing everything that they can. In many respects, the Hockey World Cup has been regarded a censored dry run for the Commonwealth Games. People are happy with the security arrangements for this world cup,” he added.