Prime Minister Justin Trudeau avoided answering questions on Friday about whether comments he made over recent farmers’ protests in India would harm relations with the country.

“Canada will always stand up for the right of peaceful protest anywhere around the world and we’re pleased to see moves towards de-escalation and dialogue,” said Trudeau during a Friday afternoon press conference.

Currently in India, farmers are protesting new legislation introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The farmers claim that the new laws would harm them financially and could be used to exploit their labour. 

Protests in the country have erupted into clashes between Indian authorities and farmers.

Earlier this week, Trudeau stated that India’s actions against protesters were “concerning.” 

“We believe in the importance of dialogue and that’s why we’ve reached out through multiple means directly to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns,” said Trudeau. 

Since Trudeau delivered the remarks, Indian officials condemned the prime minister and accused him of inciting “extremist activities” in the country.  

A statement by the office of India’s minister of external affairs stated that the prime minister and other members of the Liberal government’s comments “constitute an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs.”

“Such actions, if continued, would have a seriously damaging impact on ties between India and Canada,” read the statement. 

“These comments have encouraged gatherings of extremist activities in front of our High Commission and consulates in Canada that raise issues of safety and security. We expect the Canadian government to ensure the fullest security of Indian diplomatic personnel and its political leaders to refrain from pronouncements that legitimize extremist activism.”

During his last visit to India, Trudeau was accused of inviting convicted terrorist Jaspal Atwal to a state dinner where Indian diplomats were present. Observers viewed Trudeau’s visit to India as a diplomatic disaster and worsened relations between Canada and India. 

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