S Jaishankar to skip Canada-led meet on COVID-19, days after Justin Trudeau’s remarks on farmers' protest

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will not participate in the next meeting of the Canada-led group of foreign ministers amid a fresh row between the two nations over remarks made by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on the ongoing farmers' protest in India.

The meeting has been convened by the Canadian foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne.

ThePrint quoted sources as saying that Jaishankar is extremely upset with Trudeau’s comments and has decided to show his displeasure by refusing to attend the meeting.

The Indian administration is said to be unhappy with the "ill-informed" and "unwarranted" comments being made in Ottawa that could impact bilateral relations between India and Canada.

However, officially, the Indian side has conveyed to the Australian side that Jaishankar will not be able to attend due to "scheduling issues", as per The Indian Express.

Jaishankar had participated in a virtual meet last month of the Ministerial Coordination Group of COVID-19 (MCGC), led by Champagne.

India on Friday summoned Canadian High Commissioner Nadir Patel, and told him that the comments made by  Trudeau and others in his cabinet on the farmers' protest constituted an "unacceptable interference" in the country's internal affairs and these actions, if continued, will have a "seriously damaging" impact on the bilateral ties.

Trudeau, backing the agitating farmers in India, had said that Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protests, and had expressed concern over the situation.

"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," the MEA said, adding a demarche was made to the envoy.

"Such actions, if continued, would have a seriously damaging impact on ties between India and Canada," the ministry asserted.

The MEA said these comments by the Canadian leaders have encouraged "gatherings of extremist activities" in front of the Indian High Commission and Consulates in Canada, raising 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.

But despite the displeasure expressed by India over his comments, Trudeau on Friday reiterated his stance on Canada supporting the “right to peaceful protest”.

Thousands of farmers are protesting at various borders of Delhi against the three laws they claim are meant to end the mandi system and minimum support price procurement system for the benefits of corporates.

Farmers have been protesting the laws for nearly two months in Punjab and Haryana states. The situation escalated last week when tens of thousands marched to New Delhi, where they clashed with police. Currently, farmer leaders are in talks with the Centre over their set of demands.

With inputs from agencies

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