Indian flag pull-down incident: UK’s historic blunder 

While a massive Tricolour graced the Indian High Commission building in London, the disgraceful attack is a blot on India-UK relations. It should not be business as usual as it will hurt India’s policy response and image, says a former diplomat.

Indian flag
Photos and videos of the giant Indian Tricolour are now going viral on social media platforms. Photo: (Twitter/@JaiveerShergill)

While a massive Tricolour graced the Indian High Commission building in London, the disgraceful attack is a blot on India-UK relations. This pertains to the passive reaction to the incident by the UK government despite the unprecedented act of pulling down India’s flag inside the premises.  

India’s Ministry of External Affairs said it finds unacceptable the indifference of the UK Government to the security of Indian diplomatic premises and personnel.

The Ministry’s statement came in the aftermath of a serious security breach outside the Indian High Commission in the United Kingdom, which resulted in an untoward incident, with separatist and extremist elements pulling down the Tricolour from the building’s first-floor balcony.

A botched-up response

What should have been a scrambling within the UK establishment, its response was timid and casual with diplomatic rhetoric.  

immigration image

“The UK government vows to take the security of the Indian High Commission here ‘seriously’”, said the UK Foreign Office Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon in condemning the incident.

When asked, the British High Commission(BHC) in New Delhi, clarified its stance based on foreign secretary James Cleverly’s remarks.

“The act of violence will keep coming back if the actions are not taken,” said a former ambassador to the UK.

The foreign secretary stated: “We are working with the Metropolitan Police to review security at the Indian High Commission, and will make the changes needed to ensure the safety of its staff as we did for today’s demonstration.”

However, the response from the BHC on the arrests is not clear.

“The failure of the UK government in allowing this to happen is unacceptable,” said the former ambassador. “This act should be treated with utmost urgency until the culprits are arrested by the UK government,” he added.

“If the UK government delays the process, hiding under the legal framework, India must respond it with some sort of measures,” said a senior diplomat

“Such act of vandalism will prevail if not addressed. India’s foreign policies depend on concrete actions which should send a message that it will not be lost in the dolomitic niceties,” said the ambassador.

While there are bilateral talks and discussions on one side, there is an incessant act of violence and propaganda which are made from their official positions—whether it is on migration or the BBC episode–, said a former Indian high commissioner.

The BBC is funded by the UK government which narrates its official positions aligned with the government on many issues.

The protests in London on March 19 began hours after Punjab Police launched a state-wide manhunt against pro-Khalistani separatist preacher Amritpal Singh. He is linked to the Khalistani secessionist movement. He remains on the run, five days after the crackdown was launched.

As per the reports, the police arrived at the scene long after the protest began. In fact, what angered the Indian authority is the negligence which is the matter of most concern, involving the diplomatic mission. This is a serious violation under the Vienna Convention.

In fact, according to the reports, the Indian establishment in London has shared intelligence inputs with British authorities about the possibility of violent demonstrations by pro-Khalistan extremists.

India is taking it very seriously. In retaliation, India on Wednesday reduced security outside the British high commission and the envoy’s residence in New Delhi.

National Security Advisor Doval’s warning

In an alarming situation, the shocking incident takes place even after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval conveyed India’s serious concerns over the UK turning a deliberate blind eye towards the rise of Sikh radicalisation and anti-India sentiments and propaganda in the country.

It is learnt that despite India raising the issue of funding Sikh separatism to the UK government, there was no action taken by their agencies.

But at the heart of the problem lies the fact that the UK government has not shown any willingness to hand over the serious offender and fugitives who took shelter in the UK.

“This is blatant and acts as huge barriers in building India-UK relations,” remarked a former diplomat who served in the Indian High Commission in London.

None of the criminals and offenders, including Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, Sanjay Bhandari, and others has been brought back to India to face justice while the UK government washing off in the name of court proceedings and legal tussles.

“The trend is not an aberration,” says a government official on the remarks made by Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman last year.

Indian authority protested against her unsavoury remarks then.

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

First published on: 23-03-2023 at 17:16 IST