Bill leak cartoon
The cartoon, which created the controversy.twitter.com/Intprofessor

Rupert Murdoch's newspaper The Australian defended Bill Leak's cartoon, which depicted Indians eating solar panels from UN-labelled boxes with mango chutney, citing "freedom of expression". 

While the cartoon has been labelled as racist by Indian media and critics worldwide, The Australian issued a statement on 15 December clarifying their position.

"We stand by this cartoon and believe it is a strong example of Bill Leak and The Australian's exercise of its commitment to freedom of speech. The cartoon does not intend to ridicule Indians but the climate change activists who would send poor people solar panels rather than give them something they need – cheap power, aid and a hand up.

"This has been a long-running theme throughout the Paris conference.

"Those following the debates in and around the Paris conference run in our pages would have realised the target of the cartoon was not Indians. It was quite the opposite. Our readers would have – and, in fact, have – understood this."

Speaking to The Guardian, Amanda Wise, Macquarie University sociology professor, labelled the cartoon as "unequivocally racist" and said that the imagery belonged to the 1950s and the world has moved on. 

"India is the technology centre of the world right now and has some of the most high-tech industries on the planet in that part of the world. The underlying message is that people in developing countries don't need all these technologies to do with climate change – they need food," Wise explained. 

"But actually it is people living in poverty that will suffer the most through food security, sea level rises, dropping of the water table."

The cartoon, which made it to the pages of The Times of India and Hindustan Times, also received a tongue-in-cheek response from Catch news. "You may send us your apology soon, Mr Leak. We'll send you a few jars of scrumptious mango chutney in return," the response read.