Trudeau’s farmer remarks: India summons Canadian envoy, says could have ‘damaging impact on bilateral ties’

Written by Shubhajit Roy
| New Delhi |

Updated: December 4, 2020 3:07:30 pm


Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Reuters)

Days after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came out in support of the protesting farmers, India on Friday summoned the Canadian envoy and said that such actions, if continued, will have a seriously damaging impact on the bilateral ties with Canada.

In an official statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Friday, it said, “The Canadian High Commissioner was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs today and informed that comments by the Canadian Prime Minister, some Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament on issues relating to Indian farmers constitute an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs.”

“Such actions, if continued, would have a seriously damaging impact on ties between India and Canada,” it said.

“These comments have encouraged gatherings of extremist activities in front of our High Commission and Consulates in Canada that raise issues of safety and security. We expect the Canadian Government to ensure the fullest security of Indian diplomatic personnel and its political leaders to refrain from pronouncements that legitimize extremist activism,” it said.

Earlier this week, as Trudeau came out in support of the protesting farmers, India had responded sharply on Tuesday against “ill-informed comments” on the “internal affairs of a democratic country”.

Speaking to Canadian-Sikh community leaders at an online event on the occasion of Gurpurab, Trudeau said: “I would be remiss if I didn’t start by recognising the news coming from India about the protest by farmers. The situation is concerning. We are all very worried about family and friends. We know that’s a reality for many of you. Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protesters. We believe in the process of dialogue. We’ve reached out through multiple means to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns. This is a moment for all of us to pull together.” He also posted a video of the entire interaction on his Twitter account.

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As expected, the Indian government reacted sharply. The Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, without naming Trudeau, said: “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. It is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes.”

While Trudeau is the first head of a country to speak out on the protests, he is not the only foreign politician to do so. At least a dozen members of parliament from the UK, Australia, Canada and a Republican Party functionary from the US also voiced their support for the farmers.

“The reports of peaceful protesters being brutalized in India are very troubling. Many of my constituents have family there and are worried about the safety of their loved ones. Healthy democracies allow peaceful protest. I urge those involved to uphold this fundamental right,” Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan tweeted.

While India and Canada have a strong bilateral relationship, it has witnessed ups and downs over the last few years as the Canadian political leadership has tried to woo the Sikh diaspora. Trudeau’s multi-city trip to India in February 2018 was marred by the Indian government’s frosty behaviour, as the Canadian ruling party was seen as supporting some of the pro-Khalistan elements.

The Sikh diaspora is widely present in Canada, UK and Australia, and some have deep influence in the political system as well.

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