Australia’s last chance

Hello everybody,

Yesterday in my piece I had referred to the article in THE AGE and had given the link, there was the following comments in it attributed to the interview of Mr Shashi Tharoor by the write and I think the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs has summarised the full situation so so well. Hence, a “cut and paste” below:

When I spoke to him a few days ago, he made two important points: first, that Australia has a crime problem in the suburbs that it must attend to, and second, that India is within its rights to speak out when its citizens face danger.

”The whole racism issue has really coloured this debate in an unhealthy way, because when our media either seizes on that, or the Australian media in turn respond critically, we are essentially dealing with not black or brown or white, but red herrings,” he said.

”We value our relationship with Australia, it’s a friendly country … The truth is this is a problem of law and order, one that Australia is dealing with and needs to deal with internally. But it cannot but affect us when our citizens are reported to be suffering.”

And in a nod towards the nuances of the debate, he acknowledged the impact that India’s ”agitated media” had had on the Indian public by its constant reporting of Australian racism. ”Without wanting to exaggerate in any way the extent of this violence, it does worry us how this has become almost a dominant perception of Australia in the minds of so many Indians,” he said.

In a few elegant words, Tharoor cut to the heart of the issue and it is worth quoting him in full: ”For an Indian mother to hear that her son has been assaulted in Australia, it little matters to her whether he was assaulted because of his race, or because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because he was the wrong colour or the wrong height, or was carrying an iPod. She doesn’t want her son to be assaulted.

”It’s a very common human feeling and that’s essentially what this is all about.”

This morning I find that there is a clear shifting of stance on the part of Victorian Police and The Australian reports that there is now a recognition of sorts that some racial elements need to be tackled . This link may be of interest to elaborate what I am saying.

Both the approach of the Indian Government and the changing approach of the Victorian Police including now a call for ZERO TOLERANCE which has been further initialised through the prompt action against the attacker of the cabbie in Melbourne yesterday, is the way forward. Better late than never…

It appears to me that the problem has been diagnosed and there is a need to put in a plan now that can rectify the situation. While the confidence building will have to follow through various measures including people to people contact and correct regulations that welcome quality students, the first step is in prompt increase in patrolling and uniformed personnel in trouble prone areas. This certainly is not a hurdle that one cannot be overcome. There is a disconnect between the Federal and the State in Australia and somehow the State of Victoria is pulling down Australian image and hence the Federal machinery needs to take steps that they know well.

Lets recognise the role the Indian diplomats have played in Australia over the last one year especially in Canberra and Melbourne. High Commissioner Singh and Consulate General Nayar have displayed the appropriate responses and have avoided media sensationalism that some fall for at times. In India, the current Australian High Commissioner Verghese and the previous  High Commissioner John McCarthy have equally displayed patience and responsiveness. I just wish that Victorian Police specially display the ability to match the assurances that have been given. It is indeed Australia’s last chance. Following the above, people such as myself and many others will have a role in building the relationship between the two great nations.

All Australian Alumni in India are Australia’s ambassadors in this endeavour and will vouch for the excellence and quality of the Australian “University” education. Australia should “Fix the welcome sign” by correcting the ill-timed and mis-informed change to the AL for the University bound students without delay.

AR Rahman performs in Sydney tonight and while he gives his message of harmony, I will continue to remind all that Republic Day and Australia Day happen to be on the same day and it cannot just be a co-incidence… There are too many things in common and we should continue to keep humming… Jai Ho!!!


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