Ian Woods, Sky News (Middlesex, UK), March 5, 2010
The murder of a three-year-old Indian boy in Australia is threatening to further strain relations between the two countries.
The body of Gurshan Singh was found dumped near Melbourne airport around 20 miles from his home, six hours after he disappeared.
His parents had reported him missing, telling police he must have wandered out of the front door while his mother was taking a shower.
A post-mortem examination has not established a cause of death.
He was fully clothed and there were no obvious sign of injury.
However, a series of racist attacks against Indian citizens in Victoria has some people jumping to conclusions.
An Indian community leader who visited the parents said he believed “racism was alive and well in Australia”.
Sunny Chandra said he had lived in the country for 40 years but was now afraid and questioned the determination of Victoria Police to deal with race crimes.
But officers have urged people not to pre-judge matters.
Detective Inspector Steve Clark said: “I would just urge people not to speculate on what may or may not have occurred.
“It’s very early days in our investigation and we are treating the circumstances as suspicious and we will see where the facts take us.”
The state’s police and political leaders have been criticised for downplaying race as a motive in hundreds of attacks and robberies on Indian students. One young man was stabbed to death in January.
The inquiry into the toddler’s death is being led by a former British chief constable, who became Victoria’s deputy commissioner last year.
Sir Ken Jones, who used to be president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, told a news conference: “Any missing child; any suspicious death of a child, we will investigate to the absolute of our potential.
“Beyond that I would say to the Indian community and to India, they can take my assurances that anything and everything that can be done, will be done.”
The murder comes at an awkward time for the Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith, who has been visiting India to reassure the Delhi government that their students are safe, and that Australia is determined to tackle racial incidents.
Australian cricketing hero Shane Warne has also attempted to help diffuse tensions, hosting Indian students at a picnic featuring samosas and chicken tikka.
Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd said: “If this is a case of murder there is nothing worse than the brutal murder of a little child.
“The authorities are investigating it, we are confident the authorities will get to the bottom of it.”