British PM Boris Johnson confuses farmer protests with India-Pakistan conflict in Parliament

During the question period in the British Parliament, Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi asked Johnson to comment on the ongoing protests in India

Press Trust of India December 10, 2020 13:23:50 IST
British PM Boris Johnson confuses farmer protests with India-Pakistan conflict in Parliament

File image of Boris Johnson. AP

London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday seemed to confuse two separate issues when he reiterated the UK government's stance that any dispute between India and Pakistan was for the two countries to settle bilaterally.

British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, who has been leading a drive to keep the protests by the Indian farmers against the government's agricultural reforms in the news in Britain, repeated one of his previous Twitter statements on the issue in the House of Commons during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) session.

"Many constituents, especially those emanating from Punjab and other parts of India, and I was 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", the Opposition lawmaker said.

"So, will the Prime Minister (Johnson) 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 Johnson.

Johnson, in his brief response, went on to address a completely unrelated matter instead.

"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 Johnson.

Dhesi, who looked visibly perplexed, was quick to take to social media once again as he posted the exchange on Twitter, adding: But it might help if our PM actually knew what he was talking about!

The UK government has so far refused to be drawn into the ongoing protests in India, with the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) saying the matter of handling protests was an internal one.

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

Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, and several other states have been protesting on various borders of Delhi since 26 November, seeking repeal of the three farm laws enacted in September.

Dubbing these laws as "anti-farmer", these farmers claim that the newly enacted legislation would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporations.

However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.

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