UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was slammed on social media on Wednesday after implying India’s farmers’ protest against new laws was an issue between New Delhi and its neighbouring longtime foe Pakistan.
During question period in the United Kingdom’s parliament, member of Parliament Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi said “water cannon, tear gas and brute force” was being used against the Indian protesters and questioned the British government’s position on the months-long 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?” Singh asked.
Johnson responded: “Our view is the right honourable gentleman knows well is that of course, we have serious concerns about what is happening between India and Pakistan.
“But these are pre-eminently matters between those two governments to settle, and I know he appreciates this point,” Johnson added.
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. Absolutely clueless! So disappointed with his response.
— Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP (@TanDhesi) December 9, 2020
Shortly after his comments, Twitter users mocked him for his confusing statement with British member of Parliament Afzal Khan calling it “a new low even for Boris Johnson”.
“The issue has nothing to do with India and Pakistan. Incredible,” Khan said.
A new low even for @BorisJohnson
The PM responded with a rehearsed & unrelated answer about India & Pakistan
The issue has nothing to do with Pakistan. Incredible. pic.twitter.com/yUFPOakY0h
— Afzal Khan MP (@Afzal4Gorton) December 9, 2020
The demonstrations are related to three farm laws passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government this year that deregulate crop pricing, which farmers say will hurt their livelihoods and only benefit large corporations.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana – known as India’s grain bowl – have blocked key highways linking New Delhi to neighbouring states for more than two weeks.
????? UK PM Boris Johnson on question about India farmers protest: We have serious concerns about matters between India and Pakistan, which are pre-eminently for them to settle ??????
Hope the UK Foreign Office clarifies. https://t.co/115GCQEAcI
— Suhasini Haidar (@suhasinih) December 9, 2020
Another parliamentarian Zahra Sultana pointed out that Johnson seemed to confuse the farmers protest with the international conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir.
“Is it too much to ask for a PM who knows the difference between Kashmir and Punjab?” Sultana posted on Twitter.
Is it too much to ask for a PM who knows the difference between Kashmir & Punjab? 🤦🏽♀️
— Zarah Sultana MP (@zarahsultana) December 9, 2020
India and Pakistan claim the Kashmir territory in its entirety but rule parts of it. Many Kashmiris demand either a merger with Pakistan or an independent state.
The nuclear-armed nations have fought three wars over the past 70 years, two over Kashmir.