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Trudeau’s sermons

Published: 4th Dec 2020 12:00 am | Updated: 3rd Dec 2020 10:37 pm

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s sermons to India on handling farmers’ protests are unwarranted and amount to interfering with India’s internal matters. Ironically, Canada never lost an opportunity in the past to challenge India’s farm subsidies at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Ottawa has consistently opposed India’s policy of minimum support price for staple crops such as rice, wheat and pulses. Against this backdrop, Trudeau’s patronising take on farmers’ protests in India must be seen more as a tactic to play to the gallery. Canada is home to a large number of Indian immigrants, mostly from Punjab which is now the epicentre of protests against the new farm laws. Speaking at an online event to mark the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, Trudeau said the situation of Indian farmers agitating against the agriculture laws was “concerning” and that his country would be there to defend the rights of peaceful protesters. New Delhi has rightly rejected the comments as being ill-informed. While there is no denying that the new farm laws are contentious and facing stiff opposition from various quarters in the country, it is puzzling that the leader of a foreign country should be holding forth on the issue. Amidst all the concern being shown by Canadian leaders for protesting farmers, one must not lose sight of the fact that at a recent meeting of the WTO’s committee on agriculture, Canada, along with the United States and European Union, questioned India’s agricultural subsidies and its farmer-friendly policies.

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For several years now, the developed countries, including Canada, have been raising the issue of India’s food subsidies at WTO meetings. In July this year, Canada, along with the US, Japan and the European Union, had questioned India on exceeding the permitted limits on food subsidies given for rice production — also called de minimis levels under the WTO norms — to farmers in 2018-19. India, along with other developing countries like Brazil, China and South Africa, obtained a so-called ‘peace clause’ in 2013 which gives protection to them from being dragged into disputes in case they exceed their permitted limits. In order to continue offering food subsidies to farmers, New Delhi had to invoke this peace clause. In fact, Canada made an attempt to take India to the WTO dispute settlement body over the MSP issue. Moreover, given the bitter past over the issue of Khalistan, the Canadian leadership will be well-advised not to add another chapter to its uneasy relationship with New Delhi. Already, the country’s Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is facing allegations of having links with Khalistani groups. Trudeau must realise the hazards of playing to certain galleries in the Sikh diaspora in Toronto and Vancouver.

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