India is poised to lodge a ‘strong’ protest on Monday against lack of security measures to prevent the burning of its national flag outside the Indian high commission on Saturday, India’s Republic Day, hours after the Foreign Office insisted Britain does “not condone” such activities.
A group of Khalistan supporters burned one flag, stamped on others and raised anti-India slogans, holding placards with images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and national security advisor Ajit Doval outside India House in the presence of some British police personnel.
A Scotland Yard spokesperson said: “We are aware of a social media video that appears to be from the demonstration outside India House in Aldwych on Saturday, 26 January. No allegations of crime have been reported. We are working to establish the exact circumstances of the video”.
India’s protest is likely to take the form of a ‘note verbale’, besides the issue being raised at various levels, sources said. The incident appeared set to spark another round of diplomatic tension on such issues that have engaged the two countries since the early 1980s.
It was the second incident in London involving the Indian flag within a year. It was also mutilated in Parliament Square during the April 2018 visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Commonwealth heads of government meeting. India’s strong protest at the time had prompted an apology from the Foreign Office.
Plans to burn the Tricolour on Republic Day had been announced on social media. However, on Friday, a Foreign Office spokesman reiterated that Britain allowed peaceful protests, but insisted it does “not condone” the burning of national flags.
He said: “We congratulate India on her 69th Republic day celebration, and look forward to deepening our relationship further as we prepare to leave the European Union and forge new partnerships with key global allies”.
“We are proud to be a country that fiercely protects the rights of individuals to peaceful protest and free speech as essential parts of a vibrant democracy, provided that demonstrators act within the law. We do not condone the burning of national flags, which is deeply offensive to most people.”
There was no counter-protest by pro-India elements during the Saturday incident outside India House.