New Delhi: India and Canada seemed to get around their recent tensions over farmers’ protests as Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured his “friend” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that New Delhi would do its best to supply Covid vaccines sought by Ottawa.
The new turn in ties followed weeks of sparring between the two countries over the farmers’ crisis with Canada defending the rights of the mostly Sikh farmers to protest and India accusing radical Sikhs in Canada of taking advantage of the unrest to spark separatist fires in Punjab.
The development was the outcome of a call from Trudeau to Modi late on Wednesday.
“Was happy to receive a call from my friend @JustinTrudeau. Assured him that India would do its best to facilitate supplies of COVID vaccines sought by Canada. We also agreed to continue collaborating on other important issues like Climate Change and the global economic recovery,” Modi said in a tweet.
Was happy to receive a call from my friend @JustinTrudeau. Assured him that India would do its best to facilitate supplies of COVID vaccines sought by Canada. We also agreed to continue collaborating on other important issues like Climate Change and the global economic recovery.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 10, 2021
A statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada said: “Expressing his appreciation, Prime Minister Trudeau said that if the world managed to conquer COVID-19, it would be significantly because of India’s tremendous pharmaceutical capacity, and Prime Minister Modi’s leadership in sharing this capacity with the world. Prime Minister thanked PM Trudeau for his sentiments,” the statement said.
Last month, the Ministry of External Affairs had stated that vaccines will be exported to Ottawa and other countries on “commercial basis.”
The Canadian statement also said that “the leaders discussed Canada and India’s commitment to democratic principles, recent protests, and the importance of resolving issues through dialogue”.
But there was no reference to this in a statement released by the Indian PMO.
Tensions over farmers’ protests
Canada was one of the first countries to speak on the farmers’ protests when the protests against the three farm bills started gaining momentum in December.
On 30 November 2020, on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti, Trudeau, along with his other cabinet colleagues, defended the right to protest by the farmers and expressed their concerns on the evolving situation then.
“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. I know that’s a reality for many of you. Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protest … 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,” he had said then.
After that, fingers have been pointed towards Canada several times, even as the clamour on Sikh separatists’ trying to take advantage of the ongoing protests with the help of Pakistan has grown louder.
Talks on Indo-Pacific, G7, G20
On Wednesday, both leaders also highlighted the need to strengthen the strategic Indo-Pacific framework and the need to work together in key multilateral platforms such as the G7 and G20, among others.
“The two prime ministers reaffirmed their common interests in a free and open Indo-Pacific, and the importance of working together on global challenges such as climate change, strengthening global trade, and reinforcing the rules-based international order,” the Canadian statement said.
The collaboration on Indo-Pacific also did not find a mention in the statement issued by the Indian government.
“The two leaders also reiterated the common perspective shared by India and Canada on many important geo-political issues. They agreed to continue the close collaboration between both countries in fighting global challenges like Climate Change and the economic impacts of the pandemic,” the Indian statement said.
“The leaders looked forward to meeting each other in various important international fora later this year, and continuing their discussions on all issues of mutual interest,” it added.