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India summons British envoy over criticism of farm laws

A discussion among UK lawmakers on Monday has caused anger in New Delhi, which accused the parliamentarians of interfering in India’s internal affairs.

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India’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday it had summoned the United Kingdom’s high commissioner over what it called “unwarranted and tendentious discussion” of Indian agricultural reforms in the British parliament.

Three new agricultural laws introduced by India late last year have led to months of protests by farmers, angry at what they see as sops to large private buyers.

A discussion among UK lawmakers on Monday has caused anger in New Delhi, which accuses the parliamentarians of interfering in India’s internal affairs.

Read more: India’s farmer protest: Victory or death?

At Tuesday’s meeting India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told Alexander Ellis, who was appointed as envoy earlier this year, the debate “represented a gross interference in the politics of another democratic country,” according to a ministry statement.

“He advised that British MPs should refrain from practising vote bank politics by misrepresenting events, especially in relation to another fellow democracy,” it added, in an apparent reference to British lawmakers and voters of Indian descent.

A spokesman for the British High Commission, as the country’s embassy in India is known, declined to comment.

Unrest has been particularly intense in the state of Punjab, which has large diasporas in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

India summoned Canada’s envoy in December following critical comments by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.

The protests received global prominence after celebrities including pop star Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg voiced their support for the movement earlier this year.

Read more: 100 British MPs send letter to PM Johnson to raise the issue of farmers protest with Modi

An Indian climate activist has been arrested after she allegedly helped create a guide to the anti-government farmer protests that was tweeted by environmentalist Greta Thunberg.

Disha Ravi, 22, was arrested last month. Police alleged she edited an online “toolkit” containing information on the protests that were put out by Swedish activist Thunberg in early February on Twitter.

Reuters with additional input by GVS News Desk