Canberra: Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith admitted on Tuesday that some of the attacks on Indians in his country were indeed racist in nature and pressed the need to build strong ties with New Delhi.
"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," the Minister told Parliament.
He said the wave of attacks on Indian students and others of Indian origin in Australia since last year had cast a long shadow not only over educational links but across the broader bilateral agenda.
"These attacks are inexcusable. Australia needs to take this seriously and we are taking it very seriously," the Minister said.
"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."
The violence has soured relations between India and Australia. Two victims were killed in the attacks.
Emphasising that Australia needed to treat its ties with India "like a Test match and work with diligence and dedication", Smith said the attacks had "considerably damaged his country's reputation in India and among the Indian people".
"In 2008, I compared Australia's earlier approaches to India to a 20/20 cricket match: short bursts of enthusiasm followed by lengthy periods of inactivity. I said we needed to treat the relationship like a Test match and work with diligence, dedication, application and perseverance day in and day out to extend the partnership," he said.
"The era of inactivity and even neglect is over," he added, delving on India's growing global role, the strategic relationship between both these countries and the future trajectory of bilateral relations.
Smith stressed that Australia had emerged as a major destination for Indian students studying abroad over the last decade. Enrolment had gone up at an average annual rate of over 40 percent since 2002. Currently there were over 120,000 Indian students.
Detailing the measures undertaken by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's government, Smith said law enforcement agencies had brought perpetrators of attacks to justice.
In Victoria state alone, Smith said 45 people had been arrested for crimes against Indian students or nationals.
Following the attacks, Smith acknowledged that repairing the Australian brand and reputation in India was an essential priority.
"Just as Australia and Australians need to recognise the realities of India's evolving society and emergence as a global influence, we have to work harder to convey to India and Indians an appreciation of contemporary Australia," he said.
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