Australia PM says Indian community ‘priority’ after rise in temple vandalism

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue of a growing number of temple vandalisms in a meeting with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese.

Hindu temples are increasingly being targeted by so-called anti-India groups in Australia and Canada, two countries to which a growing number of Indian citizens are relocating.

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“The Indian diaspora is now the second largest immigrant community in Australia. This Indian community is making a significant contribution to the society and economy of Australia,” Modi said.

“It is a matter of regret that attacks on temples have been regularly reported in Australia over the past few weeks. It is natural that such news worries the people in India, and disturbs our minds.”

“I have shared these feelings and concerns of ours with Prime Minister Albanese. And he has assured me that the safety of the Indian community is a special priority for him. Our teams will be in regular touch on this topic, and will cooperate as much as possible,” the Indian Prime Minister said.

In response to questions from reporters, Albanese said: “I gave him [Modi] the assurance that Australia is a country that respects people’s faith. That we don’t tolerate the sort of extreme actions and attacks that we’ve seen on religious buildings, be they Hindu temples, mosques, synagogues, or churches.”

“This has no place in Australia. And we will take every action through our police and also our security agencies to make sure that anyone responsible for this faces the full force of the law. We’re a tolerant multicultural nation, and there is no place in Australia for this activity.”

In January, three Hindu temples were vandalized in Australia – on January 12 at the Swaminarayan temple in Melbourne, on January 16 at the historic Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple in Victoria, and on January 23 at the ISKCON Temple in Melbourne.

The latest incident was marked in the first week of March when the Shree Laxmi Narayan Temple in Brisbane was vandalized, according to Australian local media reports.

All these targeted attacks were allegedly carried about by pro-Khalistan supporters; a separatist movement to create an independent-from-India homeland for Sikhs by establishing a sovereign state.

Various independent referendums to secede Punjab from India have been held, one in London in 2021, and another in Canada in 2022 – all of which bore non-binding results.

Albanese arrived in India on Wednesday on an official four-day visit, during which he met Modi and opened the fourth India-Australia cricket Test match, met Indian business leaders, visited India’s homemade aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, and signed various agreements across the defense, sports and education sector.

India’s exports to Australia totaled $8.3 billion and imports from the country stood at $16.7 billion in 2021-22, according to the economic think tank Global Trade Research Initiative.

While India’s exports range from agriculture, garments and railway engines to telecom, 95 percent of India’s imports from Australia are raw materials and mining products needed by Indian industry.

Their defense relationship now encompasses information exchanges, military exercises, and scientific and technological cooperation.

The issue of Sikh separatists has also overshadowed India-Canada relations.

In November last year, India called on the Canadian government to ban a referendum on the separation of the state of Punjab from India to create an independent homeland for Sikhs.

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