Unwarranted remarks

NON-RESIDENT Indians, understandably, have been quite vocal in their support to the protesting farmers and while expressing their displeasure over the treatment meted out to them by the government. The scenes witnessed over the past few days have been troubling, to say the least, and the reaction, including rallies, by the large Punjabi diaspora — most with a farming background — can only be seen as a sign of empathy. Canada’s Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says his constituents are worried over the safety of their loved ones. Another prominent leader, NDP’s Jagmeet Singh, has conveyed solidarity with ‘the farmers from Punjab and across India’. Both have called upon the Modi government to engage in a peaceful dialogue.

Politicians marking concerns, even if amplified at times, as community leaders over events taking place in their country of origin is par for the course, but the Prime Minister of the country, no less, choosing to join in is unsettling. Testing the limits of protocol with his remarks on farmer protests, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has added another chapter to his uneasy relationship with New Delhi. The Ministry of External Affairs has been quick to term the comments unwarranted and amounting to interference in India’s internal matters, along with a riposte that ‘it is best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes’.

Curiously, for all the concern shown for the protesters, a recent meeting of the Committee on Agriculture of the World Trade Organisation saw Canada, along with the US and European Union, questioning India’s agriculture trade practices and farmer-friendly policies. Ottawa also challenged India when it sought to defend its agricultural programmes like the minimum support price for staple crops such as rice, wheat and pulses. There is no denying that the new farm laws are contentious, or that the Centre fell way short in not only recognising the anger and distrust of the primary stakeholders, but also while engaging with them. But how is that Trudeau’s business? His public commentary was uncalled for.

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