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Cablegate: Australia-India: Goa Concerned by Latest Attack

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/05/2020
TAGS: PREL IN AS
SUBJECT: AUSTRALIA-INDIA: GOA CONCERNED BY LATEST ATTACK
BUT RELATIONS STILL GROWING

Classified By: Political/Economic Counselor Edgard Kagan, for reasons 1
.4 (b),(d)
1. (C) Summary: Another Indian student has been attacked in Australia, this time fatally. Nitin Garg, a twenty-one year old was stabbed to death on January 2 as he walked to work in Melbourne. The attack was the most recent in a spate of violent attacks on Indians in Australia over the last two years. Australian officials condemned the attack and India's Foreign Ministry issued a formal advisory for Indian Students in Australia. While Australian officials usually refuse to ascribe racial motivations to the attacks, the Australian High Commissioner in Delhi did acknowledge race has likely played a role in some of the attacks. Australia remains concerned about the damage to its reputation and the loss of export earnings as Indian students look elsewhere, but the attacks are not likely to permanently damage the warming bilateral relationship. End Summary.

First Death in a Series Attacks
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2. (U) Nitin Garg had recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting from Central Queensland University's Melbourne campus. As he walked to work at a fast food restaurant on the evening of January 2, he was fatally stabbed by still unknown assailants. Garg's death was the first stemming from a series of attacks on Indians in Australia over the last two years.
3. (U) Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who hails from Melbourne where many of the attacks have occurred, condemned the murder but stopped short of apologizing or referring to racial motivations. Likewise, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott termed the attack ""tragic,"" but rejected suggestions that Australia is an intolerant society. However, Peter Varghese, Australian High Commissioner in Delhi, acknowledged that race was likely a motivating factor is some attacks.
4. (C/NF) Gary Cowan, the India desk director at Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the incident would not likely alter the upward trajectory of the Australia-India relationship. He said the travel advisory issued by the Indian Foreign Ministry would hopefully preempt and further action from the Indian government.

Education Exports Take a Hit
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5. (U) This most recent attack further exacerbates Australia's image problems, which have significant monetary repercussions. Australia's Tourism Forecasting Committee has projected 4,000 fewer Indian students will study in Australia in 2010. This represents a 20 percent decrease and a USD 70 million hit to the economy. In 2009 roughly 70,000 Indians studied in Australia, which helped make higher education Australia's third largest export earner behind coal and iron ore.

Bilateral Relationship Still on Track
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6. (C/NF) Comment: While Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna stated that the attack will have ""some bearing"" on the bilateral relationship, it appears unlikely that these attacks will significantly alter the growing bilateral relationship. Canberra has sent nearly a dozen ministers to India over the last two years to improve ties and recently increased its diplomatic presence in India. India relies on Qincreased its diplomatic presence in India. India relies on coal and raw materials from Australia and wants Australian uranium. But the acknowledgement of at least some racial motivations from High Commissioner Varghese demonstrates a small but significant uptick in Australian concerns over the attacks. End Comment.

CLUNE

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