Congress Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor believes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments on the ongoing farmers’ agitation in India were “unusual” as the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of a nation is well-established in international diplomatic practice.
Speaking to News18, the Thiruvananthapuram lawmaker and former external affairs minister said, “For a foreign Prime Minister to comment on an internal political development in our country is certainly unusual and Prime Minister Trudeau would have been better off not to have said what he did in the way he did.”
Trudeau, during an online event on Monday to mark the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, had said that the news coming out of India was “concerning” and his country would “always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protest”.
"We're all very worried about family and friends. We believe in the importance of dialogue and that's why we've reached out through multiple means directly to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns," he said during the virtual celebration with the Sikh community.
Tharoor said that it was the public nature of Trudeau’s statement, as well as the revelation that Canada had conveyed its concerns to India that irked the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs).
“It is clear he was playing to his own domestic constituency, as most democratic politicians do. But had Trudeau addressed a domestic audience of Canadian Punjabis, and stated that as their PM he understood their concerns, the government of India could not have objected,” Tharoor told News18.
India had denounced Trudeau’s remarks on the farmers’ protests as “ill-informed” and “unwarranted”. “Such comments are unwarranted, especially when pertaining to the internal affairs of a democratic country,” MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said on Tuesday.
In a possible reference to Trudeau saying that concerns were conveyed to the Indian government, Srivastava said, “It is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes.”
However, Tharoor also pointed out that the “principle of glass houses suggests” that if India wants non-interference in our internal affairs to be upheld as an absolute and inviolable rule by others, we should adhere to it strictly ourselves.
Asked about India’s repeated comments on the unrest in Balochistan in Pakistan or PM Narendra Modi mouthing “Abki Baar Trump Sarkar” in Houston, Texas, Tharoor said that every time the Prime Minister makes any comment on the internal affairs of any other state, he leaves himself open to retaliation.
“In all fairness, he (Modi) has not said anything about Canada's internal politics, so that excuse does not apply in this case! However he can certainly be accused of double standards,” the Kerala MP said.
Trudeau’s remarks came after thousands of farmers travelled to Delhi over the last week to demand the scrapping of contentious agricultural reforms. Protesters were met last week with barricades at Delhi's border and clashes erupted between farmers and police.
The government has defended the laws and accused the opposition parties of misleading the farmers, who have dubbed the bills “anti-farmer”. The government says the new laws will bring much-needed private investment to the crisis-hit agricultural sector.