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India: Attacks on Students in Australia Could Affect Bilateral Relations


India says the recent killing of an Indian student in Melbourne, Australia, could adversely impact bilateral relations. The number of Indians heading to Australian universities is expected to fall this year in the wake of a series of attacks targeting Indian students.

The strong condemnation of the attack that killed 21-year-old Nitin Garg in Melbourne came from Indian foreign minister, S.M. Krishna.

Garg, an accounting graduate in Melbourne, was stabbed to death late Saturday when he was on his way to work at a fast food outlet in the city.

Foreign minister Krishna called it an uncivilized, brutal attack on innocent Indians. He warned that India would be forced to take unspecified measures unless Australia takes stringent measures to stop such attacks on Indian students.

"The Australian government should realize that we have a vibrant democracy in India , and that public opinion is getting polarized on an issue like this, so they should take note of the deep anger that such incidents cause," Krishna said. "It certainly will have some bearing on the bilateral ties between our two countries."

Garg's stabbing was the latest in a series of assaults on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney in the past year.

The attacks have generated huge media attention in India, and sparked allegations that they are racially motivated. Indian students in Australia have also been urging the Indian government to bring more pressure on Canberra to stop the attacks.

The Australian government and police however say the assaults on Indian students are purely criminal, and have downplayed any racial motives.

Australian police have said the motive for the attack on Garg was not known.

On Monday, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard condemned the attack and said her country welcomes international students.

"We are an accepting, tolerant, multicultural nation. We have got no toleration for racism in any form," Gillard said.

Australia has become a popular destination for Indian students in recent years because its universities are cheaper compared to those in the United States or Europe. In 2009, there were 70,000 Indians studying in Australia .

But tourism officials in Australia have forecast that the number of Indian students heading to the country's universities could fall by more than 20 percent due to rising concerns in India over the attacks.

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