Thursday December 02, 2021

UK PM’s Pakistan, India gaffe sparks backlash

December 11, 2020

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of being "absolutely clueless" by Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi after the Prime Minister made a mistake in his response to a question about India's farmers protest during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs).

The British PM drew condemnation after making a blunder during his PMQs answer to a question by Britain’s first turban-wearing Sikh MP Mr Dhesi who had asked the PM to show solidarity with tens of thousands of protesting farmers in India – outraged at policies of Narendra Modi govt against the farmers.

The Sikh MP had asked the British PM to "convey our anxieties and hopes for a speedy resolution" to the farmers' protest in India to the Indian Prime Minister Modi. However, Boris Johnson's response that it was a matter for India and Pakistan to settle was met with ridicule as the PM showed his total ignorance of the current issue while repeating an official line used often for India and Pakistan in relation to the Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Following the exchange in Parliament, Mr Dhesi tweeted: "Many were horrified to see water cannons, tear gas and brute force being used against farmers peacefully protesting in India about #FarmersBill2020. Everyone has the fundamental right to protest peacefully. But it might help if our PM actually knew what he was talking about!

"The world is watching, the 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."

Labour MP Afzal Khan called Johnson’s gaffe “a new low even for Boris Johnson”. “The issue has nothing to do with India and Pakistan. Incredible,” Afzal Khan said.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, general counsel for Sikhs for Justice, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the prime minister confused the current farmers’ protest with the territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. People’s lives are at risk here, and the PM must pay attention to the severity of the situation in Punjab, where brute force and teargas are being used by the Indian authorities against farmers protesting peacefully.”

Zahra Sultana MP pointed out that Johnson seemed to confuse the farmers' protest with the Kashmir conflict. “Is it too much to ask for a PM who knows the difference between Kashmir and Punjab?” Sultana posted on Twitter.