SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia condemned on Monday the killing of an Indian student in Melbourne, as India called for an end to the spate of attacks against Indian students which has damaged Australia’s multi-million dollar foreign student sector.
Accounting graduate Nitin Garg, 21, originally from the state of Punjab in northern India, was stabbed to death on Saturday night on his way to a job at a fast food outlet in Melbourne.
Police said the motive for the attack, which they described as vicious, was not known.
Indian media have labeled the series of attacks against Indian students in Australia as racist, but police and the Australian government have said the attacks are purely criminal.
“I obviously unreservedly condemn this attack,” said Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
“This is a nation that welcomes international students. We want to make them welcome, this is a welcoming and accepting country,” Gillard told reporters on Monday.
Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on Sunday issued a statement condemning the “brutal attack,” with Indian media reporting him warning the attacks were creating “deep anger” in India and could have a “bearing on bilateral ties.”
“There is extreme shock and fear and anger,” Gautam Gupta, president of the Federation of Indian Students of Australia, told local radio on Monday.
Australia’s international student sector is the country’s third largest export earner, behind coal and iron ore, totaling A$13 billion ($11.7 billion) in 2007-08.
Attacks against Indian students in 2009, mainly in Melbourne, led to violent protests by students and strained bilateral ties, prompting Gillard and other Australian ministers to visit India to assure that all was being done to stop the attacks.
Australian universities also sought to reassure students and their families that Australia was a safe place to study.
But a recent study forecast a 20 percent drop in Indian students in 2010, costing A$78 million, due to the attacks.
The study by The Tourism Forecasting Committee forecast 4,000 fewer Indian students, a fall of 21 percent compared with a 35 percent rise in 2009. Indian student numbers in Australia had risen at an average annual rate of around 41 percent since 2002.
In 2009, there were more than 70,000 Indians studying in Australia. Australia is a major destination for Indian students studying abroad, who recognize the cost competitiveness of Australian education services.
Editing by Sugita Katyal