PM Justin Trudeau softens stand, but India-Canada bilateral ties have already taken a blow
As Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his support for the “peaceful protests” in India over the farm laws but tried to soften his stance, the damage-control exercise may have come too late as Indo-Canadian groups have expressed their disappointment over the harm caused to bilateral ties.
During his daily media interaction on the pandemic, Trudeau, when asked about the demarche issued by the Indian government, said, “Canada will always stand up for the right of peaceful protest anywhere around the world and we’re pleased to see moves toward de-escalation and dialogue.”
Even as “pro-farmer” groups staged a Punjab Kisaan Car Rally to the Indian high commission in Ottawa, the top Indo-Canadian organisation, Canada India Foundation (CIF), expressed its anguish over the adverse impact that Trudeau’s statement already had on ties, as it said that “a hasty tweet here, or a quick comment there, from leaders in responsible positions from Canada are known to roil the calm waters”.
“The political compulsions to appeal to a section of Canadian voters who have deep roots in Punjab’s farming communities perhaps played a role in such public pronouncements,” it added.
That came even as India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar will skip the Canada-led ministerial coordination group on Covid-19 (MCGC), which India had joined for the first time in November.
In last months’ virtual meeting, Canada’s foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne had commented on the “critical role” that India is playing with regard to the requirements globally for medicines needed to combat the pandemic.
In its statement, the CIF lauded the farm laws, saying, “India enacted significant reforms to its agricultural sector through a series of bills recently. The need to reform agriculture in India and to bring it par with modern standards was never controversial.”
It also welcomed “the Indian government’s willingness to listen to the concerns of the farmers. In a democracy, peaceful negotiations are the only way to resolve differences”.
Trudeau’s remarks during a Facebook live event to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak was followed up within hours with him delivering a recorded message to the annual convention of the Indo-Canadian business chamber.
He extolled the economic ties between the two countries in that message and its potential. However, an Indian official pointed out, with political ties now flat-lining, economic engagement between the two governments will suffer as a result.
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