‘Scheduling issues’ likely reason for skipping video-call; UN chief Guterres, 36 UK legislators back farmers’ protest.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will not be part of a video-call at the initiative of Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne on Monday, days after India summoned the Canadian envoy and protested against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments on the ongoing farmer protests here.
Officially, the Indian side has conveyed to the Canadian side that Jaishankar will not be able to attend the video-call due to “scheduling issues”.
Sources cautioned that it is not correct to link Jaishankar’s refusal to participate in the meeting with the issue of comments from the Canadian leadership, since New Delhi has not given that as the reason. “If it was indeed an action to convey India’s displeasure, we would have said so. We wouldn’t have given scheduling as a reason,” the source said.
Since March 15, Canada has been having a video-call with Foreign ministers of Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Singapore and the United Kingdom – there have been 11 such video-calls till now. On November 3, Jaishankar took part in the 11th call of the ministerial coordination group on Covid-19 hosted by Canada.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for UN chief Antonio Guterres and a group of 36 cross-party UK parliamentarians have also come out in support of the agitating Indian farmers, saying that people have a right to demonstrate peacefully and authorities should let them do so.
“As to the question of India, what I would say to you is what I’ve said to others when raising these issues is that people have a right to demonstrate peacefully, and authorities need to let them do so,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary General, said in New York on Friday while responding to a question on the farmers’ protest in India.
In London, a group of 36 cross-party Parliamentarians have written to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and asked him to make representations to his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, regarding the impact on British Punjabis affected by the demonstrations by farmers against new agricultural reforms in India. “This is a joint letter calling for representation to be made by yourself to your Indian counterpart about the impact on British Sikhs and Punjabis, with longstanding links to land and farming in India,” the MPs stated.
The letter, issued on Friday, has been drafted by British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and signed by other Indian-origin MPs, including Labour’s Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra and Valerie Vaz as well as former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
It urges the minister to set up an urgent meeting with them to discuss the “deteriorating situation in the Punjab” and seeks an update on any communication the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has had with the Indian government on the issue.
The FCDO said the department has not received the letter as yet. “The police handling of protests are a matter for the government of India,” an FCDO spokesperson said.
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