Business & Economy

India summons British envoy over parliamentary debate on farmers’ protests

New Delhi, Mar 9 (efe-epa).- The Indian government on Tuesday summoned the United Kingdom’s High Commissioner in India to express “strong opposition” over a debate in the British parliament over the ongoing farmers’ protests in India against agrarian reforms, in which various UK lawmakers expressed concern over New Delhi’s actions.

“Foreign Secretary summoned the British High Commissioner and conveyed strong opposition to the unwarranted and tendentious discussion on agricultural reforms in India in the British Parliament,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

It added that the debate, held on Monday, “represented a gross interference in the politics of another democratic country” and urged British lawmakers to refrain from “vote bank politics,” a reference to the sizable Indian diaspora in the UK.

Earlier, the Indian High Commission went a step further by issuing a statement – which was later removed from its website and social media handles – accusing the British MPs of making “false assertions, without substantiation or facts.”

“It is also a matter of concern that, once again, comments were made to mislead the British Indian community,” said the statement, issued earlier on Tuesday.

Thousands of farmers have been on a sit-in since Nov. 26 at various border points towards New Delhi, where they have been stationed tractors, trucks, and pitched tents for a long-haul protest until the government revokes the three new agricultural laws approved by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

These laws allow companies to directly negotiate crop prices with the peasants, reducing the role of government-regulated markets.

The farmers allege that this would leave them at the mercy of the fluctuating free market and eventually end government protections such as minimum price guarantees.

The crisis has witnessed moments of heightened tensions, including clashes between protesters and police during a tractor march on Jan. 26 marking the Republic Day, in which one person was killed and hundreds injured.

This resulted in the security forces installing barbed-wire fences and nails on the roads outside the capital to restrict the protesters’ movement and blocked internet on many occasions.

The debate in the British parliament on Monday was launched following a petition signed by over 100,000 people, and included interventions of a score of MPs who expressed their concerns over the Indian government’s treatment of the agitation.

“The nature of the way in which the protesters have been attacked in Delhi is unprecedented, but also unprecedented has been the reaction of the indian government,” said Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, highlighting the internet and media blockade of the protests.

The British minister of state for Asia, Nigel Adams, said during the debate that London had a series of “serious and specific” concerns which will be raised directly with New Delhi “as you expect of a friend and neighbour.”

Adam’s comments come ahead of an expected India visit of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he had to cancel a scheduled trip in January due to the coronavirus pandemic. EFE


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