Indians ranked Australia as the second most preferred country to study abroad next to the US, despite a series of "racially motivated" attacks against them in 2009 and 2010, according to a new opinion poll released today.
The poll, conducted by the Lowy Institute and Australia India Institute here, found that 75 per cent respondents who participated believed Australia was a good place to be educated, ranking second only to the United States.
"It reveals that ordinary Indians quite like Australia despite all the trouble that's happened," said the study's co-author and Director of the Lowy Institute, Prof Rory Medcalf.
"All the trouble" refers to series of much-publicised attacks on Indian students, studying in Australia, in 2009 and 2010. And these events have still left their mark on Indians' opinions of Australia.
The poll found 62 per cent of Indians still considered Australia a dangerous place for students, and 61 per cent also felt the attacks were racially motivated.
A further 60 per cent of the 1233 adult respondents said they would like India's government and society to be more like Australia's.
Overall, Indians ranked Australia among the top four countries they felt closest to, with the United States, Japan and Singapore taking out the top three.
Education, democracy and cricket are important foundations for Indian-Australian relations, the poll showed.
"There's still some fragility in the relationship and if there was another crisis it wouldn't take much to raise these ghosts about racism and danger," Medcalf said adding the main difference between Australia-India relations now, compared to five years ago, is that "champions of the relationship" have emerged.
The poll also found Indians wouldn't be nearly as interested in Australia if it weren't for the countries' mutual love of cricket.
"It shows the Australian cricket team is still good for one thing, and that is projecting a positive image of Australia in India," he said.
The report found Australia was well-liked in India with Indians holding relatively warm feelings towards Australia (56 degrees on a scale of 0 to 100), which ranks fourth after the US (62), Singapore (58) and Japan (57) out of 22 countries in the survey.
Welcoming the findings, AII director Amitabh Mattoo said, "The Australia-India relationship is an idea whose time has come. This poll confirms that Indian perceptions of Australia are improving, but more work is needed to build and secure this vital relationship."