UK / UK PM confuses farmers' protest with Indo-Pak dispute; video surfaces

Zoom News : Dec 10, 2020, 12:35 PM
London: In a major gaffe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson seemed to have been confused between the ongoing farmers' protests in India and the India-Pakistan dispute.

Responding to question on the ongoing farmer protests in India, the PM replied with UK government’s stance on the dispute between India and Pakistan being a bilateral one.

Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, who has been on the forefront of raising the issue of Indian farmers’ agitation against the Modi government's agricultural reforms, asked Boris Johnson a question on the topic in the House of Commons during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) session.

Prime Minister Johnson’s reply was unrelated to the query posed.

"Our view is that of course, we have serious concerns about what is happening between India and Pakistan but these are pre-eminently matters for those two governments to settle and I know that he appreciates that point," said Mr Johnson.

When India Today sought a clarification, a UK government spokesperson said that the Prime Minister had “misheard” the question and that the Foreign Office was “closely” following the protests in India. This is the first time that the UK government has said that they are monitoring the situation in India.

“The Prime Minister clearly misheard the question in parliament today. The Foreign Office are (is) following the issue of protests in India closely,” said the spokesperson.

While the UK government had refused to be drawn into the ongoing protests in India, with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) last week saying that the matter of handling protests was an “internal” one, the UK government has now come out and said that they are monitoring the situation after massive protests and rallies were organised in London the past week.

"The police handling of protests is a matter for the government of India," an FCDO spokesperson said last week, following a letter initiated by Mr Dhesi and signed by 35 other UK MPs over the issue.

On Wednesday, Opposition lawmaker Dhesi had said in parliament, "Many constituents, especially those emanating from Punjab and other parts of India, and I were horrified to see footage of water cannons, teargas and brute force being used against peacefully protesting farmers. However, it was heart-warming to see those very farmers feeding those forces who had been ordered to beat or suppress them. What indomitable spirit and it takes a special kind of people to do that,"

"So, will the Prime Minister convey to the Indian Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) our heartfelt anxieties, our hopes for a speedy resolution to the current deadlock and does he agree that everyone has a fundamental right to peaceful protest," he questioned Mr Johnson.

After the response of the Prime Minister, a befuddled Dhesi took to Twitter saying, "But it might help if our PM actually knew what he was talking about!"

36 British Members of Parliament (MPs), led by Dhesi, had written to UK Foreign Secretary Dominc Raab to make representations with his Indian counterpart External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar about the impact of “British Sikhs and Punjabis, with longstanding links to land and farming in India”.

Describing it as a purely internal issue, the Indian High Commission in London in a statement had said, “As many are aware, the protest against agri reform bills in India is part of a democratic process. It is a 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,”

Amid the massive protests in London, India has engaged the UK government and apprised them of what the bills mean.

“In recent days, The High Commission has comprehensively briefed the relevant interlocutors in the UK Govt and the Parliament on the fundamental features of the path-breaking Farming Sector reforms initiated by the Govt of India,” was the response of the High Commission.

Adding, “The fact that currently, the Govt of India has reached out to the Farmer organisations in India to address any of their apprehensions and concerns about the relevant reform measures is part of the democratic decision-making process and exemplifies the spirit of responsive governance in India,”