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Farmers' protest: S Jaishankar to skip Canada-led meet on COVID-19 amid Justin Trudeau's remarks

Farmers' protest: S Jaishankar to skip Canada-led meet on COVID-19 amid Justin Trudeau's remarks

Canada has been having a video-call since March 15 with Foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, Singapore, Brazil, France, Germany and Italy. On November 3, Jaishankar participated in the 11th call of the ministerial coordination group on COVID-19 hosted by Canada

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister

External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will not be part of a video-call that has been convened by the Canadian foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne on Monday. The update came days after India summoned the Canadian envoy and protested against PM Justin Trudeau's comments on the ongoing farmer protests in the country.

The Indian side has officially conveyed the Canadian side that Jaishankar will not be able to attend the meeting due to "scheduling issues". Sources, however, cautioned that it is not correct to link Jaishankar's refusal to participate in the meeting with the Canadian leader's comments, since New Delhi has not given that as the reason.

"If it was indeed an action to convey India's displeasure, we would have said so. We wouldn't have given scheduling as a reason," said the source.

Canada has been having a video-call since March 15 with Foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, Singapore, Brazil, France, Germany and Italy. On November 3, Jaishankar participated in the 11th call of the ministerial coordination group on COVID-19 hosted by Canada.

Meanwhile, 36 United Kingdom's Members of Parliament (MPs) across party lines - including some Indian origin legislators and others representing constituents with links to Punjab - led by the Labour Party have written to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, asking to raise the matter of farmers' protest against the Narendra Modi government in New Delhi.

The parliamentarians asked Raab to make representations to his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, regarding the impact on British Punjabis affected by the demonstrations by farmers against new agricultural reforms in India.

Farmers in the country are protesting against the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

The MPs said, "This is a joint letter calling for representation to be made by yourself to your Indian counterpart about the impact on British Sikhs and Punjabis, with longstanding links to land and farming in India."

The letter, which was issued on Friday, has been drafted by British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and signed by other Indian-origin MPs - Virendra Sharma, Valerie Vaz and Seema Malhotra as well as former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Dhesi, while raising the issue of farmers' protesting against the three new agricultural laws in the country, added, "This is an issue of particular concern to Sikhs in the UK and those linked to Punjab, although it also heavily impacts other Indian states."

He added, "Many British Sikhs and Punjabis have taken this matter up with their MPs, as they are directly affected by family members and ancestral land in Punjab. About three-quarters of the state's 30 million-strong population is involved in agriculture. Therefore, these new laws present the Punjabis with a huge problem, with some describing it as a 'death warrant'."

The letter urges the minister to set up an urgent meeting with them to discuss the "deteriorating situation in the Punjab" and seeks an update on any communication the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has had with the Indian government.

The FCDO said the department hasn't received the letter so far. FCDO spokesperson said, "The police handling of protests are a matter for the government of India."

(With PTI inputs)

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