Home >News >India >India briefs some foreign govts about farmers' protests

New Delhi: India has briefed some foreign governments over the ongoing famers’ protests in the country which includes the British government, three people familiar with the matter said separately on Monday.

The outreach to the British government took place last week, one of the people cited above said.

It came ahead of protests over the weekend outside the Indian High Commission in London by Sikh groups based in the UK, some of whom are seen as sympathetic to the cause of a separate state for the Sikh community, Khalistan, carved out of India.

Farmers mainly from Punjab and Haryana are protesting the new laws passed by the parliament in September that aims to open up the sale of produce to corporates and companies as the government of prime minister Narendra Modi aims to double farm incomes by 2022. Since 27 November, hundreds of thousands of farmers have occupied highways bordering the national capital of Delhi with their tractor-trolleys, demanding that the government withdraw the bills and make assured purchases at support prices a legal entitlement. Senior government ministers are negotiating with the farmers but they have called for a countrywide shut down on Tuesday.

The aim of the briefing to the foreign governments was to convey that the new laws aim to reform India’s antiquated food procurement system. According to a second person aware of the matter, the aim of the briefing was also to ensure that anti-India separatists groups do not take advantage of what is seen as a routine domestic matter to stage protests against India.

New Delhi’s strategy seems to have worked in the case of Britain with the British government remaining quiet over a letter written by 36 British MPs led by British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, asking him to take up the matter of farmers’ protests with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has said that the farmers’ protests was India’s internal matter.

“The police handling of protests are a matter for the government of India," an FCDO spokesperson said, according to a PTI report from London.

That New Delhi also briefed Canada was evident from a statement that the Indian government put out on Tuesday after Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said he was concerned about the farmers’ protests.

While describing the comments by Trudeau and some other Canadian political leaders as “ill-informed" and “unwarranted" the Indian statement also added that it was “best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes" – referring to exchanges between India and Canada prior to Trudeau’s remarks.

According to news reports, Trudeau’s comments had led to anti-India and pro-Khalistan Sikh groups to stage protests outside the Indian high commission in Ottawa last week.

In London, the Scotland Yard made a number of arrests on Sunday after it warned of enforcement action ahead of thousands of protesters from different parts of the UK gathering outside the Indian High Commission on Sunday, in a show of support for farmers demonstrating against agricultural reforms in India.

The demonstration, largely made up of British Sikhs, involved placard waving with messages such as “Justice for Farmers" as well as blocking roads.

“Our High Commission has been coordinating closely with the authorities concerned and we will, together with them, address the issues that have come up – for example how this gathering of thousands could take place without specific permission," an Indian High Commission spokesperson said, according to PTI.

“It soon became clear that the gathering was led by anti-India separatists who had taken the opportunity of the protests in India to ostensibly back the farmers in India but use the opportunity to pursue their own anti-India agenda," the spokesperson said.

The High Commission reiterated the government’s stance that the protest against agriculture reform bills in India is part of an internal democratic process.

“It is work in progress in our functioning democracy. The government of India is in talks with the protesters which are still ongoing. Needless to say, it is an internal issue of India," the spokesperson added.

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