Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 1
The Ministry of External Affairs has unfavourably viewed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remarks on the farmers’ stir made during a virtual interaction organised by his Parliamentary colleague Bardish Chagger to mark Guruparb.
Trudeau is the first world head of government to comment on the protest by Indian farmers, which entered its sixth day on Tuesday.
In a brief riposte, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava 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 Guruparb. 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.
The Canadian prime minister also sought global solidarity and indicated his continuing interest to “help each other out”.
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 attempt to downplay Trudeau’s comments comes when New Delhi is actively soliciting investment from Canada’s deep-pocketed pension funds. Prime Minister Narendra 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.