DC Edit | India needs to be firm with UK
It is a pity that the UK had to be told by India to tend properly to security around the Indian high commission in London. But then India had to make this strong gesture to elicit a response from the host country, which had created this crisis by sheer fecklessness on the part of the UK.
It is no secret that the UK was forced into responding to India removing a layer of barricades outside the British high commission on Shantipath as well as from in front of the high commissioner’s residence. The symbolic gesture was suggesting a replication of London’s indifference to the serious matter of providing adequate security around the perimeter of diplomatic missions.
The “Khalistanis” who invaded India House last Sunday had a free run in the absence of UK security personnel. India’s national flag was brought down and mischievous gestures like planting symbols of a so-called ‘Free Khalistan’ allowed because of the total lack of security.
The British foreign secretary had to put out a cringeworthy statement on how “acts of violence towards staff at the Indian high commission are unacceptable”. Given the nature of protest events around the world, including in Australia, Canada and the United States, it would have been blindingly obvious that India House in London would be a readymade target.
Of course, the misplaced romanticism of a breakaway movement for a homeland for the Sikhs, which appeared to have been forgotten decades ago, is rearing its head again in the wake of action taken against the renegade preacher Amritpal Singh who holds extremist views on the issue but is a fugitive from the law now.
India had, on occasion, been forced to make such symbolic gestures to express its frustration over treatment of diplomats on foreign soil, as it did in the case of Devyani Khobragade. But the protests now are aimed at India as a nation and the least it could expect is for symbols of state like its diplomatic missions and temples to receive protection from vandals acting in the guise of protests.
It is not a matter of pride that India had to put on a show of strength in a negative gesture like removing security for a mission on Indian soil. However, the circumstances seem to have justified it. Now that the episode is behind us, it should not be allowed to affect the strong foundation of India-UK ties of the current era, which is a far cry from the days of colonialism.