NEW DELHI: India pulled up Canada on Tuesday for remarks on the farmers’ protests, saying such comments were uncalled for.
“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,” ministry of external affairs official spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said. “It is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined some of his ministers and other parties to “express concern” about the protests by farmers against recently enacted laws on farm trade, stating that these concerns had been conveyed to the Indian government.
Trudeau made the remarks while participating in a Facebook interaction organised by Canadian MP Bardish Chagger to mark Gurpurab, or the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. He was joined by Canadian ministers Navdeep Bains, Harjit Sajjan and members of the Sikh community.
“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,” Trudeau said in his opening remarks. “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.”
Trudeau also said it was important to remember Guru Nanak’s teachings of compassion, equality and selfless service, which were central to both Sikhism and Canadian values.
Sikhs make up for about 1% of Canada’s population, but they are a dominant ethnic group and wield significant political influence. Since 2015, there have been 18 Sikh MPs elected to Canada’s 338-seat House of Commons.
India-Canada ties had been rocked previously by the Trudeau government’s proximity to those supportive of the separatist Khalistan movement, but had stabilised in recent times.
Trudeau’s remarks come in the backdrop of Canada, along with the US and the European Union, questioning India’s agriculture trade practices and farmer-friendly policies at a recent meeting of the Committee on Agriculture of the World Trade Organization.
Canada sought details of the PM-KISAN programme under which income support of Rs 6,000 per year is provided to small and marginal farmer families.
“Could India clarify who is eligible for this programme and what are the criteria that determined eligibility for a payment? Could India indicate if payment levels are determined by income of producers and if so, what is the defined and fixed base period used to define eligibility?” Canada asked.
Canada also expressed doubt over the eligibility of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, a crop insurance scheme, as a permitted subsidy under WTO.