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Australia downplays India student warning

Nitin Garg
Mr Garg was working at a fast food restaurant

The Australian government has played down a travel advisory issued by India warning of the risk of violence against Indian students in Melbourne.

The warning followed the killing last week of an Indian graduate, Nitin Garg, who was stabbed to death in the city.

The Indian travel advisory warned of an increase in robberies and assaults.

But acting Australian foreign minister Simon Crean urged Indian leaders to avoid fuelling hysteria and said Melbourne was safe for visitors.

India's travel advisory said acts of violence against Indians had often been accompanied by verbal abuse and fuelled by drugs and alcohol.

Basic safety

"The government advises Indian students studying in Australia, as well as those planning to study there, that they should take certain basic precautions in being alert to their own security while moving around," the notice said.

Rally against attacks on South Asians in Melbourne - 31/5/2009

The foreign ministry's eight-point advisory also asked Indian citizens to report "complaints" to Indian diplomatic missions in Australia.

"The number of such incidents of assault as well as of robbery has been on the rise in recent months, which has affected not only Indian students but also members of the larger Indian community in Australia," it added.

Mr Garg's murder has received wide media coverage in India, with one newspaper describing his death as proof "that the issue of racist attacks on the Indian community needs to be addressed by the Australian authorities".

'Not racist'

Australian police have said 1,447 people of Indian descent were victims of a crime in Victoria in the 12 months to July 2008.

But Australian authorities insist there is no racism behind the attacks, only opportunistic criminals.

"What we have to do is to let the investigations take their course, but certainly on the basis of what we're being told so far, by the Victorian authorities, there's no basis for a racial motivation behind this," Mr Crean told Australian radio.

Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna urged the Australian authorities to "speedily book" the people responsible for the killing of Nitin Garg.

Mr Garg was stabbed to death on his way to a fast food restaurant in Melbourne on Saturday night.

Mr Krishna said the attack was "highly condemnable".

He said the Australian government should realise such attacks were making public opinion in India "polarised".

Australia's Tourism Forecasting Committee (TFC) said Indian students were choosing to stay away because of a series of attacks in mid-2009.

The number of Indian students studying in Australia is projected to fall by about 20% in 2010, the TFC said.



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