The inescapable conclusion is that the attacks on Indian students in Australia are race-related. The Australian high commissioner to India, Peter Varghese, has admitted to this after an Indian taxi driver in Melbourne was racially abused and then beaten up by white assailants. Australia's former military chief, General Peter Cosgrove, said on Wednesday that "If you don't suspect a race strand (to the attack on Indian students) you'd be mad." He has compared the attacks to the clashes between Anglo and Lebanese gangs in Sydney in 2005.

What's to be done about it?

The Manmohan Singh government has issued a travel advisory to Indian students planning to study in Australia that they may be endangered there and his foreign minister, S.M.Krishna, has warned that tougher advisories may be coming if Australian authorities do not immediately contain the attacks. The attacks have an eighteen-month history, showing signs of worsening with the killing of a young Melbourne accountancy graduate, Nitin Garg, who was stabbed on his way to work, and with the setting ablaze of an under-construction gurdwara also in Melbourne.

The Australian government response so far, despite the contrary view of its high commissioner to India, is to deny any race angle to the attacks, and to label it as generic urban crime. Occasionally in the past, Australian educationists and race-relations experts have warned their government not to be complacent. In particularly violent areas of Melbourne, railway stations, etc, the government increased police patrolling with good results, but these were soon discontinued. After Garg's murder, police have conducted checks, recovering knives, hatchets and other personal weapons. But there is no guarantee that the extra surveillance will continue, more so since the Australian government remains in denial about the race attacks. It was recently enraged by an Indian newspaper cartoon depicting Australian police as part of the Ku Klux Klan. But to return to the question, what's to be done about it?

Neither Australia nor India wants a breakdown in relations on account of these attacks. Although Australia has not been supportive of India's strategic rise, opposing the 1998 nuclear test, siding with China on the Arunachal Pradesh issue, and still reluctant to export uranium from its huge deposits despite a NSG complete waiver, New Delhi is not ready to give up on Canberra. For all the past chill and present troubles, relations have improved to a point where no Australian government, Right or Centre-Left, can ignore India. Australia is also part of the triangular alliance with the US and Japan in the Asia-Pacific, and a natural hedge to hegemon China, although none of their governments will outright say so, and attempt fruitlessly at accommodating the Chinese rise.

Which is why the Manmohan Singh government is resisting succumbing to the Indian media hysteria against the race attacks, but it cannot spectate them much longer without intervention. By its advisories, sent and threatened, it is warning Australia of the likely impact of the attacks on its education industry valued at $15 billion, of which Indian students attracted by permanent residency prospects in that country account for $2.3 billion. The attacks have already plunged Indian student visa applications by nearly fifty per cent year-on-year during July-October 2009. Education is Australia's third-largest export and insulated it somewhat from recession. By its advisories, India is hoping to follow the cricket example, where its financial clout has defanged Anglo-Australian dominance of the ICC, and has punished Pakistan for its terrorism.

But Indian public opinion wants an immediate and complete halt to the race attacks, and the Manmohan Singh government would have to bow to it before long. It is time for hard action, and purposive moves in the direction to cripple Australia's education economy, among other things, are overdue. A small section of Australians are racist, but the whole country must have to pay a price for not standing up to them.