In today’s ever-so-volatile Indo-Pacific, India’s relationship with Australia is far closer than it has been at any time in history. The two nations share a similar assessment of the region, their strategic partners are the same, they have common political values and their economic partnership is growing. Yet this level of comfort is extraordinary given how distant the two nations seemed just a decade ago.
Earlier this century, as the Indian middle class expanded, an increasing number of students began to pursue education abroad. Australia became a preferred destination. In 2009, some 92,106 Indian students were enrolled in Australia – a huge increase from 23,491 students just three years previously. But this growing interaction between Australians and Indians rapidly turned sour due to a series of attacks on Indian students. In 2009–10 alone, more than 1450 cases of violence against Indians in Australia were recorded. The Australian government tried to downplay it by framing these attacks as crimes triggered by economic anxieties, arguing that the targeting of Indians was coincidental and circumstantial. Only a few instances of this unprovoked violence, they claimed, were racially motivated.