New travel warning issued for India ahead of elections

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Australian travellers are being urged to exercise a high degree of caution in India over the next few weeks as the mammoth country heads to the polls for the largest democratic election in history.

Smartraveller, the government’s travel advisory body, delivered a new alert for the beguiling South Asian nation on Thursday, warning travellers that “frequent political rallies and possible protests are likely to occur in the lead-up to, during and after the election.”

“You can expect traffic delays and restricted access to locations. Avoid protests and demonstrations and monitor local media for the latest updates,” the note reads.

Polling for India’s general elections kicks of on April 19 and goes through to June 1, with results announced about June 4.

The scale of the vote dwarfs elections in the West.

As of January 2023, there were more than 945 million registered voters in India, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a US think tank.

More than 11 million election workers will traverse the vast nation over the weeks-long voting period to make sure all eligible voters can cast their ballots.

The election will determine who sits in India’s lower house, the country’s most powerful legislative body.

The party that wins the most seats nominates one of its members to be the prime minister.

Along with the new alert, Smartraveller maintains its advice to exercise a “high degree of caution in India overall” due to the treat of terrorism and crime and the risk of civil unrest.

More serious advice levels apply to parts of the country.

The government has issued a “do not travel” warning for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the India-Pakistan border zones due to the “danger of armed clashes, terrorist activities and violent demonstrations”.

A “reconsider your need to travel” alert is in place for the Atari-Wagah border crossing, the northeastern states of Assam (except Guwahati), Nagaland and Manipur, Chhattisgarh and the border areas of neighbouring states.

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