Delhi lodged a formal protest with Canada on Friday, saying that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement about protests by Indian farmers near the capital constituted interference in its domestic affairs.
Trudeau met with the Indian community in Canada this week and expressed concerns about farmers protesting. Most of them are from the Sikh-dominated Indian state of Punjab, and they camped out on Delhi’s outskirts to protest against agricultural reforms.
The Indian Foreign Ministry summoned Canada’s ambassador on Friday and said that the PM’s comments on “issues relating to Indian farmers constitute an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs.” It also warned that “such actions, if continued, would have a seriously damaging impact on ties between India and Canada.”
The ministry stressed that statements made by Trudeau and other politicians had emboldened radical groups, and they also posed a risk to Indian diplomatic staff in Canada.
“We expect the Canadian government to ensure the fullest security of Indian diplomatic personnel and its political leaders to refrain from pronouncements that legitimize extremist activism,” the ministry said.
The Canadian embassy in India has not immediately responded to the rebuke.
India has in recent years claimed that some leaders of an influential Sikh community in Canada have ties to separatist groups hostile to India.
Media outlets in India also criticized Trudeau’s coalition partner Jagmeet Singh of Canada’s New Democratic Party for praising farmers in public comments and saying they are opposing “privatization.” Another MP, Jack Harris, blasted India’s police actions against the protesting farmers.
Tens of thousands of farmers are protesting against laws seeking to rid the sector of old procurement procedures and allow farmers to sell to institutional buyers and big international retailers – a move farmers say leaves them vulnerable to poor prices for their produce. The Indian government plans to continue the talks with 40 farmers’ unions on Saturday.
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