British PM Boris Johnson confuses farmer protests with India-Pakistan conflict
During the question period in the British Parliament, MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi asked Johnson to comment on the ongoing protests in India.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday landed himself in a controversy after he appeared to confuse the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the agricultural laws in India with the conflict between New Delhi and Pakistan.
During the question period in the United Kingdom’s Parliament, MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi asked Johnson to comment on the ongoing protests in India, which have seen tens of thousands of farmers camped in the outskirts of Delhi for over two weeks now. The British MP has been a vocal supporter of the farmers and initiated a letter pledging support for the protests signed by 35 other lawmakers.
Dhesi said he was “horrified” to see that “water cannon, tear gas and brute force” was being used against the farmers and questioned the British government’s position on the demonstrations. “Will the prime minister convey to the Indian prime minister our heartfelt anxieties and our hopes for a speedy resolution to the current deadlock, and does he agree that everyone has a fundamental right to peaceful protest?” the British MP asked.
However, Johnson confused the protests that Dhesi was referring and seemed to imply they were a diplomatic matter. “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,” he said.
Dhesi looked perplexed at Johnson’s response. He later took to Twitter to criticise the prime minister, saying “it might help if our prime minister actually knew what he was talking about”.
“The world is watching, issue is a huge one with hundreds of thousands protesting globally (including in London, reported on by BBC) and the usual Boris Johnson bluff and bluster heaps further embarrassment onto our nation,” he added. “Absolutely clueless! So disappointed with his response.”
A United Kingdom government spokesperson said that the Prime Minister had “misheard” the question, reported India Today. “The prime minister clearly misheard the question in parliament today,” the spokesperson told the channel. “The Foreign Office are [is] following the issue of protests in India closely.”
The UK government has so far refused to be drawn into the ongoing protests in India, with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office saying the matter was an internal one, according to PTI. “The police handling of protests is a matter for the government of India,” said an FCDO spokesperson last week.
Hundreds of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting near Delhi borders against the new agricultural laws, which they fear could pave the way for the government to stop buying grains at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of private buyers.Their agitation was met with violent action from police, who attempted to turn them back by using water cannons and tear gas.
The Centre, which claims the laws would revitalise India’s agrarian economy by boosting produce, has made several attempts to placate the farmers. But five rounds of talks have failed to break the impasse so far.