Jaishankar pitches in as Australia, China have interaction in fierce social media conflict over Afghan civilian killings, Covid unfold

Sandeep Dikshit

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 1

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday spoke to his Australian counterpart Marise Payne as a mark of solidarity after clashes on the social media and the trade front between Canberra and China.

China has turned the screws on a wide range of imports from Australia after its Government backed a demand to probe Beijing’s role in the spread of Covid. Australia was backing a demand being made by the US and some of its allies.

The tussle entered cyber space after the Australian military was accused of murdering 39 Afghan civilians.

The social media has erupted with western think tanks calling on Joe Biden’s transition team to demonstrate solidarity. Jaishankar’s conversation with Pyne, whom he met in-person in October during the “Quad” talks, should be seen as standing by Australia, an important strategic partner for India in the post-Covid world, said sources.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had called an unscheduled press conference to demand an official apology from China after one of its wolf-warrior diplomats posted a picture of an Australian soldier threatening a young child with a knife.

On Monday evening, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying counter-attacked by saying, “The Australian side has reacted so strongly to my colleague’s Twitter, does that mean that they think the cold blood murder of Afghan innocent civilians is justified while other people’s condemnation of such crimes are not justified?”

The Australians seemed to be at the receiving end after the editor-in-chief of The Global Times, Hu Xinjin, also jumped in. The allegations of throat slitting have not been in the Australian government’s Brereton Report.

Hua continued the offensive by saying Australian anger over the tweet was misplaced but asking its government to bring the culprits to justice and offer an official apology to the Afghan people and “make the solemn pledge that they will never repeat such crimes”.

“They said that the Chinese government should feel ashamed. It is Australian soldiers who committed such cruel crimes. Shouldn’t the Australian government feel ashamed? Shouldn’t they feel ashamed for their soldiers killing innocent Afghan civilians?” she added.

Morrison had also said the cartoon posted by the Chinese diplomat was “deeply offensive to every Australian, every Australian who has served in that uniform, every Australian who serves in that uniform today.”

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