Damaging fallout from India call

Australia’s approach to India “flies in the face” of the strong partnership needed to handle an aggressive China, the opposition warns.

Scott Morrison on Tuesday defended his government’s tough travel ban on India despite its threat of five years in jail or a $66,600 fine for returning Aussies.

The Prime Minister has confirmed the controversial measures were under review as an expert revealed an extension of the ban could prompt India to “rethink” its vital relationship with Australia.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong has slammed the government’s response to India’s mass COVID-19 outbreak, saying what Australia does in times of crisis will be noticed.

“We are not behaving a way that I think is consistent with that national interest, which is to have a deep and secure friendship with India,” Senator Wong told Sky News.

“The government’s approach to the relationship with India, at the moment, really flies in the face of that imperative.”

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Senator Wong said India was crucial to Australia’s prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

She said strong relationships in the region were central to Australia’s handling of a much more aggressive or assertive China.

And putting out a press release “trumpeting tough sanctions” late on a Friday night was not the right tone or approach, Senator Wong said.

Her warning about Australia’s relationship with India follows heightened concerns about China’s increased military exercises after Australian politicians and public servants also raised the prospect of war in the region.

A top military commander is also reported to have last year told troops that Beijing was already engaged in “grey zone” warfare against Australia, while Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo issued an Anzac Day warning to staff about the beating “drums of war”.

Senator Wong reiterated colleague Brendan O’Connor’s calls for talks about these issues to be made in a “sober and cautious” way.

“I don’t believe that talking tough is the same as acting tough,” she said.

“And there has been a lot of tough talk.”


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