Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeated his support for the right of farmers in India to hold peaceful protests hours after the central government summoned the country's High Commissioner on Friday to express its displeasure at his original remarks.
"Canada will always stand up for the right of peaceful protests anywhere around the world. And we are pleased to see moves towards de-escalation and dialogue," he told reporters in Ottawa to a question about India's warning that he could damage ties between the two countries.
When pressed further about whether he was worried about the consequences, Mr Trudeau coolly reiterated the first line of his statement.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked moments ago about whether he is concerned that his comments on the #FarmersProtests will hurt relations with India— Natasha Fatah (@NatashaFatah) December 4, 2020
Here's his reponse: pic.twitter.com/01MRKxcqBP
India had summoned Canada's ambassador on Friday and warned of serious damage to diplomatic ties after Prime Minister Trudeau commented on growing protests by farmers.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping on the outskirts of New Delhi since last week to protest new laws on farm produce trading which they say will leave them at the mercy of large corporations and override legal safeguards.
Before being allowed into Delhi, the farmers faced a brutal police crackdown in neighbouring Haryana and Mr Trudeau released a Twitter video this week calling the events "concerning" and saying farmers should be allowed to stage peaceful protests.
The protests are led by farmers from Punjab which accounts for many migrants in Canada. India and Canada have warm ties, but in recent years there has been concern in India that some Sikh leaders in Canada have ties to separatist groups hostile to India.
The Indian foreign ministry said it had summoned Canada's top diplomat for a warning over "unacceptable interference" in India's internal affairs.
"Such actions, if continued, would have a seriously damaging impact on ties between India and Canada," said a statement.
The ministry said "ill-informed" comments by Mr Trudeau and other Canadian politicians had encouraged "extremist" gatherings in front of Indian missions in Canada.
"We expect the Canadian government to ensure the fullest security of Indian diplomatic personnel and its political leaders to refrain from pronouncements that legitimise extremist activism," it said.
(With inputs from PTI)