US welcomes farm laws, but says peaceful protests a sign of democracy

Biden administration says that it ‘encouraged’ differences between the Indian government and farmers to be resolved ‘through dialogue’

Farmers protest
Farmers during their ongoing protest against the new farm laws at Delhi-Ghazipur border. The US has called for peaceful dialogue to resolve the issue | Photo: PTI

India’s contentious new farm laws have received the US government’s seal of approval, with the Biden administration welcoming “steps that would improve the efficiency” of markets and “attract greater private sector investment”.

In comments first made by the State Department, and reiterated by the US embassy in New Delhi on Thursday, the administration said that it “encouraged” differences between the Indian government and farmers to be resolved “through dialogue”.

Referring to internet restrictions at the protest sites along Delhi’s border, the US said it recognises that “unhindered access to information” is “fundamental to the freedom of expression and a hallmark of a thriving democracy”.

“We recognise that peaceful protests are a hallmark of any thriving democracy, and note that the Indian Supreme Court has stated the same,” the US embassy said. “We encourage that any differences between the parties be resolved through dialogue. In general, the United States welcomes steps that would improve the efficiency of India’s markets and attract greater private sector investment.”

The Ministry of External Affairs did not issue a formal response to the US administration’s statement. However, on Wednesday it did issue an official statement while responding to pop star Rihanna, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and lawyer-author Meena Harris, niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris’s comments on the farm laws.

The government criticised “celebrities and others” for their comments in support of farmer protests, calling them “neither accurate nor responsible”.

“Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken. The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” the ministry said.

Last December, New Delhi summoned the Canadian convoy after Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, came out in support of the farmers

The government warned that such “actions”, if they continued, would have a “seriously damaging impact” on bilateral ties. Sikhs constitute less than 2 per cent of Canada’s population, but they are one of the most powerful immigrant groups in the country.

While Trudeau was the first head of a country to speak out on the protests, he was not the only foreign politician to do so. At least a dozen lawmakers from the UK, Australia and Canada have also voiced support for the farmers.