Jaishankar to skip Canada-led Covid strategy meet days after Justin Trudeau’s remarks on farmers’ protest

External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar will skip Canada-led meetings to formulate strategies on the coronavirus pandemic amid the fresh row between the two nations over remarks made by Canadian PM Justin Trudeau on the ongoing farmers’ protest in India.

India Today TV has learned that New Delhi has informed Ottawa that EAM Jaishankar will not attend the meeting that is to take place on December 7 due to “scheduling issues”.

The government sources said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) told the Canadian government that Jaishankar is not available to attend the December 7 meeting organised by Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne because of “scheduling” issues.

Jaishankar had participated in a virtual meet last month of the Ministerial Coordination Group of Covid-19 (MCGC), led by Canadian foreign minister Francois-Phillippe Champagne.

The minister has tweeted, “Pleased to participate in the Group of Foreign Ministers Meeting to exchange experiences on COVID-related challenges. Thank FM @FP_Champagne of Canada for convening the meeting.”

With the remarks made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the farmers’ protest, sources say the Indian administration is unhappy with the “ill-informed” and “unwarranted” comments being made in Ottawa that could impact bilateral relations between India and Canada.

On Friday, Canadian envoy to New Delhi Nadir Patel was summoned by the MEA and a strong demarche was issued where India said that such remarks made by PM Justin Trudeau could have a “damaging” impact on relations between the two countries.

“The Canadian High Commissioner was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs today and informed that comments by the Canadian Prime Minister, some Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament on issues relating to Indian farmers constitute an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs,” a statement issued by the MEA said.

Such actions, if continued, would have a seriously damaging impact on ties between India and Canada, the MEA said.

Despite the Canadian High Commissioner to India being summoned by the MEA over comments made by Canadian politicians, including the Canadian leadership, Justin Trudeau continued to maintain that he would stand for the rights of the Indian farmers to peacefully protest.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday reiterated his position on the ongoing farmers’ protest against the farm bills in India. When asked about India saying that his remarks could impact ties he said, “Canada will always stand up for the right of peaceful protest and human rights”.

When asked again about relations with India, he maintained, “Canada will always stand up for the right of peaceful protest anywhere around the world. We are pleased to see moves towards de-escalation and dialogue.”

Taking serious note of the views of politicians in Canada, India has said that it has encouraged anti-India elements such as Khalistani supporters to protest outside the Indian missions in Canada, putting the security of diplomats and staff in danger.

“These comments have encouraged gatherings of extremist activities in front of our High Commission and Consulates in Canada that raise issues of safety and security. We expect the Canadian Government to ensure the fullest security of Indian diplomatic personnel and its political leaders to refrain from pronouncements that legitimize extremist activism,” the MEA said.

The farmers’ protests leaped overseas when on the occasion of Gurpurab, the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, PM Justin Trudeau in an online interaction with the Sikh community leaders and politicians of Canada, said Canada always stood for peaceful protests and would continue to “defend” the rights of peaceful protestors in India.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t start also by recognising the news coming out of India about the protest by farmers. The situation is concerning, and we’re all very worried about family and friends,” Justin Trudeau said.

“We know that’s a reality for many of you. Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protesters. We believe in the process of dialogue. We’ve reached out through multiple means to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns. This is a moment for all of us to pull together,” Justin Trudeau said.

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