Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has described the situation regarding the ongoing farmers' agitation in India as "concerning" and said that his government was in touch with "Indian authorities" on the matter.
India rejected his comments as "unwarranted" and added that Trudeau misinterpreted diplomatic conversations with India for "political purposes".
"I would be remiss if I didn't start by recognising the news coming from India about the protest by farmers. The situation is concerning. We are all very worried about family and friends. We know that's a reality for many of you. Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protesters," Trudeau said while speaking on the occasion of Gurupurab to his Canadian-Punjabi constituents.
He further said, "We believe in the process of dialogue. We've reached out through multiple means to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns. This is a moment for all of us to pull together".
Trudeau is the first foreign head of government to vioce his support for farmers protesting the new central farm laws.
Canada's Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan also commented on the farmers' protest. "The reports of peaceful protesters being brutalized in India are very troubling. Many of my constituents have family there and are worried about the safety of their loved ones. Healthy democracies allow peaceful protest. I urge those involved to uphold this fundamental right," he tweeted.
India hits back
Responding the matter, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, "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. It is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes".
Trudeau slammed for opining on India's internal issue
The Canadian Prime Minister's comments drew criticism from all quarters of society in India, with people accusing him of speaking on the matter for political gains back home.
Coming down heavily on Trudeau, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said, "Dear Justin Trudeau, touched by your concern but India's internal issue is not foddered for another nation's politics.Pls, respect the courtesies that we always extend to other nations. Request PM Narendra Modi ji to resolve this impasse before other countries find it okay to opine".
Author and screenwriter Advaita Kala accused the Canadian Prime Minister of playing vote bank politics by commenting on the issue to please Sikh voters in Canada.
"And you thought vote bank politics only happens in India! It's a democracy Trudeau - people have the freedom to protest and there will be a dialogue as well. By the way, noted your long pause when asked about BLM protests in the US and how you said Canada should introspect. Same applies," she tweeted.
Trudeau's comments irked many so much so that 'Canada' and 'Trudeau' trended on Twitter for hours.
Columnist Harini Calamur urged the Indian government to ask Canada to "mind their own business". "With all due respect, how is this any of Canada's concern? I hope GoI tells them to mind their own business," she tweeted.
Senior journalist Palki Sharma asked, "Has@JustinTrudeau "expressed concern" about the peaceful protests in Hong Kong? Thailand? Poland? France? Bangladesh? And the many countries which have seen protests in the last few weeks? Or is he interested in defending the rights of only politically relevant groups?"
A Twitter user wrote, "Our government won't even reply to Trudeau. He was snubbed brutally when he came to India. A junior minister greeted him at the airport, PM Modi didn't meet for two days since his arrival and he didn't go with him to Gujarat either. He is a non-existent geopolitical entity".
Farmers protest in India
Hundreds of thousands of farmers are protesting against the three farm laws that were passed during the last session of the parliament, especially in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Kerala.
Thousands of farmers are camping at the borders of Delhi and have declared to chock Delhi from five points if the government doesn't pay heed to their demand -- to rollback the farm laws passed in September.
Farmers fear that the laws, aimed at bringing reforms to the agriculture sector by allowing farmers to sell anywhere in the country, will deprive them of guaranteed minimum prices, MSP. They also worry that government markets or mandis will be scrapped.
The Central government will today hold talks with 32 groups of farmers in an attempt to find a resolution to the massive protests. Meanwhile, many farmers associations have said that they will join the talks because other protesting farmers' groups have not been invited.
Trudeau's sour past with India
The relationship between India and Canada has virtually come to a standstill since the controversial visit of PM Justin Trudeau to India in 2018 when he was given a cold shoulder by the Indian government.
During his visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had refused to meet Trudeau over his support to Sikh separatists until he made amends by meeting Punjab Chief Minister. Even senior Union ministers had also kept a distance from any official engagement with the Canadian Prime Minister.
Even Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh was skeptical towards meeting with him over Canada's support to Khalistanis. However, when they met, Singh gave to Trudeau a list of nine Category 'A' Canada-based operatives alleged to be involved in hate crimes, terrorist activities and trying to radicalise young people and children in Punjab.