India presses Australia for ‘effective action’ against attacks (Second Lead)

March 3rd, 2010 - 11:21 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 3 (IANS) External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Wednesday held talks with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith and pressed for “effective steps” by Canberra to ensure the security of Indians in that country.
Smith updated Krishna about the measures taken by the Australian authorities, including close surveillance of areas where Indians stay in large numbers, and emphasized his government’s zero tolerance for any racist attacks.

Krishna asked for quicker prosecution of those found involved in attacks against Indian students, sources said.

The two ministers also discussed other bilateral issues, like counter-terror cooperation and the prospects of a free trade agreement between the two countries.

Smith also met Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and discussed closer partnership in the education sector.

Smith discussed the security of the Commonwealth Games and expressed satisfaction at the security for key sporting event to be hosted by India later this year.

Earlier in the day, Smith admitted that some of the attacks on Indian students were racist in nature that caused considerable damage to its reputation and standing among Indian people. But he stressed his country’s resolve to punish the perpetrators of such attacks.

Keen to rebuild ties with India, Smith also said that the Australian Institute of Criminology was studying the attacks on Indian students in his country and would soon come up with an exhaustive report to help the government deal with the issue better.

“We know that a number of these assaults are racist and have racial overtones. These are absolutely contemptible,” Smith, who is on a three-day visit to India, told reporters.

“There are 70 investigations underway on these assaults. We have zero tolerance for racist attacks,” he added.

“I acknowledge absolutely that this issue has caused considerable damage to Australia’s reputation among Indian people,” Smith.

“We have to work very hard to address that. We have to be open, transparent and upfront about that,” Smith said on his third visit to the country aimed at assuring India about the safety of students in that country.

“We are doing a range of things in future to better portray modern Australia. We want to underline the strength of the relationship between India and Australia.”

The minister disclosed that Australia’s premier research agency has been deployed to study the attacks on Indian students that started in May last year, putting bilateral ties with India under stress. “Studies done by our police on the attacks have given us statistics but were not exhaustive,” he said.

“The Australian Institute of Criminology, which is a private body, is assessing the situation and studying the attacks to establish a better understanding of the attacks as well as see if the perception that Indian students are targeted is actually true,” he added.

“These studies will also give us a deeper understanding if we (government) are doing all we can to address the issue,” he said after interacting with students at the St. Stephen’s College in Delhi University. There are around 120,000 Indian students studying in Australia. The Indian diaspora there is roughly 500,000 strong.

Keen to repair relations with India in the aftermath of attacks on students, Smith compared India and Australia’s relationship to an exciting Twenty20 cricket match, adding that it was time to convert it into a Test match.

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