Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 4
Canadian High Commissioner Nadir Patel was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Friday and informed that comments by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 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 the ties between India and Canada,” the MEA warned Patel.
The Government has viewed these comments as having encouraged gatherings of extremist activities in front of the Indian 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 legitimise extremist activism,’’ said an MEA note.
On the occasion of Gurpurab, Trudeau had veered from greeting Punjabis saying, “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.’’
The MEA had at that time itself unfavourably viewed Trudeau’s remarks on the farmers’ stir.
Trudeau is the first world head of government to comment on the protest by Indian farmers.
MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava had then referred to “some ill-informed comments by Canadian leaders” relating to farmers in India and said they were “unwarranted”. Srivastava was also targeting Canadian ministers Navdeep Bains and Harjit Sajjan whose comments had preceded those of the Canadian PM.
Trudeau indicated that his government’s concerns about the protest had been conveyed to South Block but Srivastava said “it is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes”.
Trudeau’s observations on the farmers’ stir came during a Facebook video interaction on Gurpurab. Ministers Bains and Sajjan, also critical of the handling of the farmers’ stir, along with several of the 18 Sikh Canadian MPs, had joined the interaction.
The thrust of his opening address was on underlining Guru Nanak’s teachings of compassion, equality and selfless service, which, he said, were at the heart of both Sikhism and Canadian values.
But Trudeau spent considerable time on the farmers’ stir. “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,” he said.
Sources here said Trudeau’s observations were aimed at his domestic constituency of which the Indian-origin diaspora was a major part. His hold on the Sikh community is under challenge by Jagmeet Singh Dhaliwal-led New Democratic Party.
The MEA initially downplayed Trudeau’s comments since they were made at a time when New Delhi is actively soliciting investment from Canada’s deep-pocketed pension funds.
Modi had recently virtually addressed an Indo-Canadian business gathering which was seen as a repairing of ties as New Delhi thought Ontario was soft on Sikh separatists.
Earlier last month, a “virtual trade mission to Canada” had featured Canadian minister John Hannaford, Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan and the two respective High Commissioners Nadir Patel and Ajay Bisaria.
But the demonstrations at the Indian High Commission and consulates in Canada may have tested MEA’s patience.