Topless pictures of an Indian-origin singer, who is Gold Coast city's pick to promote tourism in India, has left a section of the Indian community uneasy with some speaking against such moves to sell tourism to a largely conservative India.
Queensland-raised pop singer Aiysha Saagar was recently selected as the Gold Coast Goodwill Ambassador by the eastern city's Mayor Tom Tate, and she is set to travel to India to promote the tourist city to Indians.
However, her pictures on her website where she poses on the Surfers Paradise beach with the Australian flag pained on her body has miffed a section of the Indian community in Melbourne, according to a local news report.
Event coordinator of Queensland-based Indian Associations Neeraj Narayan said that "more than 60 per cent of India was still conservative and Saagar's partial nudity would reflect badly on Gold Coast's image".
"They may not see the appeal in coming to Australia if that's the image she is promoting," Narayan was quoted as saying.
He said while Bollywood films and globalisation had made nudity more acceptable in recent years, but "this will still be more negative than positive, I think".
Commenting on the issue, Gold Coast resident Shanti Gowans, who works as an artistic director of a Australia Bollywood Dance Company, said that if the city was planning to woo general Indians then it has to remember that Indians are family-minded people and travel in as a group.
"... and such tasteless pictures would not appeal to their family sensibilities... The girl is beautiful but she needs to be presented with more decorum and presence," Gowan was quoted as saying by a daily called 'Faceoff'.
Sydney-based community leader and cardiologist, Yadu Singh, however differed with the perception. He said such pictures would not have any significant positive or negative impact on the success of Gold Coast to attract tourists from India.
"Seeing or knowing about the pictures, Indians will have a chuckle. Nothing else," he said.
"Recent Bollywood movies and access to worldwide media in India have changed Indian society quite a bit. India today is not what it was a decade or two ago," Singh said.
Saagar has been reportedly living in India for the past eight years but also spends months on the Gold Coast.
She said the images were not meant to be posted on the website and were intended to be launched in India to promote her career "down the track".
"The whole point of these photos is to promote me as an artist," she said.
Meanwhile, Tate said he hoped Saagar would lift the Coast's profile in India so visitor numbers from the country would eventually match those from China.
"It's not just about bringing tourism here, it's about getting investors here too," he said.
"The Indian market is down on the list, as low as 4 per cent and that's how we started with the Chinese market. With the Indian population and wealth, we want to bring them here to enjoy our lifestyle, then they'll see what a good place it is to invest," he commented.
City Councillor Bob La Castra who had introduced Saagar to the Mayor said they were not aware of the topless photos but both still supported her new role.
Image: Aiysha Sagar's controversial picture