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Australia Minister Regrets 'Racist' Attacks Against Indian Students

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith tries to repair damage that has hurt foreign income

A visiting Australian official has expressed his government's regret over a recent spat of attacks against Indians in Australia.

Speaking to a group of students in New Delhi Wednesday, visiting Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith extended “deep sympathy and condolences” to those whose family members had been attacked.

There were dozens of attacks against Indians in Australia in 2009, prompting street demonstrations there and outrage in India.

Most of the attacks were against students. As a result, Australia has seen a significant decline in the number of Indian students applying for student visas.

The foreign student market is Australia's third-largest foreign exchange earner, worth $15.5 billion in 2008.

Australia Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith
Australia Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith

Smith hoped his visit would help rebuild Australia’s tarnished reputation on the subcontinent.

Indian media quoted Smith as saying his government is investigating 70 violent incidents against Indians and that the culprits would be brought to trial.

Smith admitted that some of the attacks on Indians were racially motivated. He told his Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna, that Australian officials have stepped up surveillance in areas with large Indian populations. He said his government has zero tolerance for racist attacks.

The minister held several meetings with top Indian officials about the matter. Other issues discussed during Smith’s three day visit included security for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, counter-terrorism cooperation, trade and matters related to an un-ratified legal assistance treaty.