Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, on an official visit to New Delhi, yesterday vowed to take all possible action to end allegedly racial attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney.
A series of assaults since May have strained ties between the two countries, with India demanding more protection for its 95,000 students studying in Australia.
Canberra has downplayed any racial aspect to the attacks, saying jobs that Indian students do to support their education meant they were often in dangerous areas or on public transport late at night.
The assaults have attracted widespread media condemnation in India.
“There have been criminal attacks targeting Indian students for the little money they earn to support their studies. These attacks will not be tolerated,” Rudd told a gathering of diplomats and students in New Delhi.
“As prime minister of Australia, I am deeply disturbed and disgusted by attacks of violence against any foreign students,” he said, promising steps to ensure their safety.
Australia “is committed to doing its utmost to guarantee that the sons and daughters Indian parents entrusted to the care of the Australian community remain safe and come home with a valuable education,” he said.
“We have an obligation to extend the hand of friendship and support to all Indian students,” Rudd said, adding that they were “welcome guests” in his country.
His comments came a day after India underlined the need for Canberra to take “effective steps” to prevent such attacks.
Rudd later met his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh for talks on trade, energy and climate change.
Earlier yesterday, Rudd said Australia would make an investment of around $70mn in India for green technology to combat the challenges both countries face in the energy, water, health and environment fields due to climate change.
“Collaboration and partnership is what is needed if the nations of the world are to bring about real results on sustainable development and more broadly on climate change,” he said at a function in Delhi along with R K Pachauri, chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Rudd also emphasised that Australia’s position of not selling uranium to countries that have not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) was not directed against India.
“I appreciate that there is one aspect of the energy relationship which remains unresolved: Australia’s long-standing position on the export of uranium to countries that are not party to the NPT,” Rudd said in a speech at the Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA).
He, however, added this “is not a policy directed at India”.
“It applies globally, and it has been so since 1978 under different Australian governments,” Rudd said.
He underlined that Australia, which has nearly 40% of the world’s uranium reserves, never sought to isolate India on critical nuclear policy concerns. “Australia was an active supporter in the Nuclear Suppliers Group of lifting the nuclear moratorium against India following the US-India nuclear deal,” he said.
“This reflected Australia’s appreciation of India’s non-proliferation record,” he said.
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