New Delhi: In a virtual address to the Sikh community on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau extended his support to the farmers protesting at the Delhi-Haryana borders against the recently passed farm laws.
Trudeau said the Indian farmers’ agitation against the farm bills was “concerning” and that his country will “be there to defend the rights of peaceful protest”. India reacted sharply to the Canadian PM’s remarks Wednesday, calling them “ill informed”.
In episode 631 of ‘Cut The Clutter‘, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta explained why Trudeau’s support to farmers is part of a political strategy to appease his key Sikh vote bank and is actually hypocritical.
Gupta pointed out that Trudeau has more Sikh ministers in his cabinet than even PM Narendra Modi has in his and Manmohan Singh had earlier.
Trudeau’s defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan has been a supporter of Sikh radicals. Before the PM’s statement came out, Sajjan had tweeted that nobody should use brutal methods against farmers marching towards Delhi.
Canadian conservative minister Erin Michael O’Toole also tweeted in support of the agitation, and liberal leaders Jagmeet Singh and Jack Harris targeted the Indian government over farmers’ protests.
Value of Sikh votes
Gupta noted that Sikhs are the dominant ethnic group in the eight seats of the House of Commons in Canada, as well as a significant minority group in 15 other seats where they can change the polling equation.
If Trudeau has to win the election, he has to win these seats, Gupta said.
He added that Trudeau’s track record on Sikh issues has been a concern for India earlier, as he behaves in an immature manner for the sake of his political interest by ignoring radicalism.
His delegation, during the state visit in 2018, included Jaspal Atwal, who was convicted for attempting to murder Punjab minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu.
Therefore, due to Trudeau’s immaturity, he was given a cold shoulder by the Indian government during his visit when PM Narendra Modi did not go to receive him personally, and instead sent then minister of state for agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
Trudeau also has to remember India’s sensitivities, that Indians and Punjabis have suffered a great deal of bloodletting because of this radicalism movement, said Gupta.
However, Gupta noted, one should not get concerned when a country is calling out the wrongdoings happening in another country, the way India does in case of Pakistan’s Hindus and Sikhs or US does in the case of China’s Uyghur Muslims. This is a highly globalised world.
But it is important to always call out hypocrisy on the part of public figures, particularly those who claim to have a higher moral standing, he added.
The hypocritical part about Canada is that it has consistently opposed India on agricultural issues at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Canada — along with other developed countries like the US, Japan and Australia — have challenged India at WTO meetings when it sought to defend its agricultural programmes like the minimum support price (MSP) for staple crops such as rice, wheat and pulses.
In July this year, Canada and other countries had questioned India on exceeding the permitted limit on food subsidies given for rice production — also called de minimis levels under WTO norms — to farmers in 2018-19. The de minimis level is determined as 10 per cent of the value of food production.
Canada had also sent 25 questions to India with regard to its farm subsidy and also explained the impact of such food subsidies on global agricultural trade.
Subsequently, in September, a slew of questions were posed to India by Canada and other developed nations regarding its multiple agriculture policies.
The Indian farmers are demanding what Trudeau’s government is opposing at WTO, noted Gupta.
India should look at it through the lens of hypocrisy, he concluded.
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