Trudeau's remarks on farmers' protest prompt rebuke from India

Published December 2, 2020
Canadian Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau reacts as he makes a statement in regards to a photo coming to light of himself from 2001, wearing "brownface," during a scrum on his campaign plane in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Wednesday, September 18, 2019. – AP/File
Canadian Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau reacts as he makes a statement in regards to a photo coming to light of himself from 2001, wearing "brownface," during a scrum on his campaign plane in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Wednesday, September 18, 2019. – AP/File

India's External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava in a statement released on Tuesday strongly criticised “some ill-informed comments by Canadian leaders relating to farmers in India”, multiple Indian media outlets reported.

Srivastava was apparently responding to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's comments from earlier this week in which he viewed with concern the ongoing farmers' protest in India.

Without naming Trudeau, the spokesman said his comments were "unwarranted, especially when pertaining to internal affairs of a democratic country".

"It’s also best that diplomatic conversations aren’t misrepresented for political purposes," he added.

The row started when Trudeau, addressing a Facebook meeting with leaders and members of his cabinet belonging to the Sikh community, said:

"I would be remiss if I didn’t start by recognising the news coming out of India about the protests by farmers. The situation is concerning, and we are all very worried about family and friends. I know that’s the reality for many of you".

The Canadian premier's remarks, made on Monday, coincided with the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev – the first Sikh Guru and founder of the Sikh faith.

Trudeau addressed the situation in India as mounting tensions between the protesting farmers and the Indian government led to worries and fears in Canada's own substantial Sikh community. The farmers have been subjected to state repression, measures which have aroused criticism and furore from the Punjabi diaspora in Canada.

This is not the first time that relations between the two countries have become thorny over issues in Punjab. The politically active Sikh community in Canada is a sticking point for India, which views it with suspicion for supporting the Khalistan movement.

Trudeau had to dispel perceptions in 2018, during an official visit to India, that his administration is too close to Sikh separatists.

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