India summons top UK diplomat to protest pulling down of flag at mission in London

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British deputy high commissioner Christina Scott was summoned to the external affairs ministry late on Sunday night after several videos on social media showed a Sikh man pulling down the flag outside the Indian mission in London, people familiar with the matter said.

The national flag at the Indian high commission in London was pulled down during a protest by pro-Khalistan activists on Sunday, prompting the external affairs ministry in New Delhi to summon the senior-most British diplomat to lodge a protest.

British deputy high commissioner Christina Scott was summoned to the external affairs ministry late on Sunday night after several videos on social media showed a Sikh man pulling down the flag outside the Indian mission in London, people familiar with the matter said.

A strong protest was lodged with Scott over the “actions taken by separatist and extremist elements” against the Indian mission in London and an “explanation was demanded for the complete absence of the British security that allowed these elements to enter” the mission premises, said a statement from the external affairs ministry.

Scott was “reminded in this regard of the basic obligations of the UK Government under the Vienna Convention”, the statement said.

“India finds unacceptable the indifference of the UK Government to the security of Indian diplomatic premises and personnel in the UK,” the statement added.

The Indian side said it expects the UK government to take “immediate steps to identify, arrest and prosecute each one of those involved in today’s incident” and to put in place “stringent measures” to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.

UK high commissioner Alex Ellis, who is away from New Delhi, denounced the incident at the Indian mission in a tweet. “I condemn the disgraceful acts today against the people and premises of the @HCI_London – totally unacceptable,” he said.

The videos showed a small group of pro-Khalistan activists protesting and shouting anti-India slogans outside the Indian mission in London. Several protestors carried the yellow and black Khalistan flag and some had posters calling for radical Sikh preacher and Khalistan sympathiser Amritpal Singh to be “freed”.

The videos showed one of the protestors clambering on to a balcony and pulling down the Indian flag from a pole at the front of the high commission to cheers from the other men.

British policemen arrived on the scene and prevented the protestors from approaching an entrance of the Indian high commission. The protestors shouted slogans and abuse at Indian officials within, the videos showed.

Police in Punjab have launched a massive hunt to arrest Amritpal Singh, who has been declared a fugitive and has been on the run since Saturday.

Police have arrested 78 people so far and security has been beefed up at many places across Punjab. Police personnel have also been deployed outside Singh’s house and several weapons, including rifles and ammunition, have been seized during a state-wide operation.

India has reacted strongly to all protests by pro-Khalistan activists outside its missions abroad. There have been similar protests and acts of vandalism outside the Indian mission in London in recent years.

The Indian side has also protested to the governments of Australia and Canada over the activities of pro-Khalistan activists and groups, including acts of vandalism at temples and the holding of a so-called “Khalistan referendum” by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), which is proscribed in India.

Hindustan Times

( National )

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