Canada PM Trudeau expresses concern at farmers’ protest; India says remarks ‘unwarranted’
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that Ottawa has conveyed its concerns about the protest by Indian farmers to New Delhi, but the external affairs ministry dismissed his remarks as “unwarranted” as they pertained to the country’s internal affairs.
Trudeau made the remarks while participating in a Facebook video interaction organised by Canadian MP Bardish Chagger to mark Guruparb or the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion. The event was joined by Canadian ministers Navdeep Bains and Harjit Sajjan and members of the Sikh community.
In his opening remarks during the interaction, Trudeau said: “I would be remiss if I didn’t start also by recognising the news coming out of India about the protest by farmers. The situation is concerning and we’re all very worried about family and friends.
“I know that’s a reality for many of you. Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest. We believe in the importance of dialogue and that’s why we’ve reached out through multiple means directly to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns.”
Hours later, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said in a brief statement: “We have seen some ill-informed comments by Canadian leaders relating to farmers in India. Such comments are unwarranted, especially when pertaining to the internal affairs of a democratic country.”
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Srivastava added, “It is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes.”
People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that Trudeau’s comments appeared to be aimed at Canada’s influential Indian-origin diaspora.
Trudeau also referred to the Covid-19 pandemic and said this “is a moment for all of us to pull together”. He added, “We’re going to be there to continue to work together as we are there to help each other out.” He also said it was important to remember Guru Nanak’s teachings of compassion, equality and selfless service, which are at the heart of both Sikhism and Canadian values.
Trudeau is probably the first world leader to comment on the protest by Indian farmers, which entered its fifth day on Monday. The protest is aimed at against a set of laws to liberalise farm trade and open up agricultural markets. The Union government has offered talks to the protestors camping at New Delhi’s borders, but they have insisted on the repeal of the laws.
The comments weren’t seen favourably in New Delhi, especially at a time when both India and Canada have been taking steps to restore normalcy to bilateral ties that were hit by Trudeau’s perceived softness on pro-Khalistan activists in Canada during his first term.