Swaraj demands Amazon apology for Indian flag abuse
Amazon has been forced to remove a doormat depicting the Indian flag from its Canadian store after India’s top diplomat threatened to expel all foreign employees of the online retailer if it did not withdraw the product.
External affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, used Twitter to demand Amazon “tender [an] unconditional apology” and “withdraw all products insulting our national flag immediately”, after another user alerted to the listings.
Amazon’s Canadian store offered a range of doormats depicting the Indian flag as well as those of other countries, including the US and the UK. The Indian flag doormats, sold by a third party, were taken down by the site on Wednesday.
A spokesman for Amazon said: “The item is no longer for sale on the site.”
Earlier, Swaraj had asked the Indian high commission in Canada to “take this up with Amazon at the highest level”. She added: “If this is not done forthwith, we will not grant [an] Indian visa to any Amazon official. We will also rescind the visas issued earlier.”
The 64-year-old minister, who has nearly seven million followers on the social network, has become well-known for her “Twitter diplomacy”, regularly responding to problems and questions tweeted at her by other users.
In August 2015, she helped to organise the release of an Indian woman who was allegedly being illegally held in a Dubai hotel room, after the woman’s brother tweeted at Swaraj for help.
Earlier that year she organised – and tweeted live updates about – an operation to rescue a group of Indians being detained in Iraq, after footage of them circulated online.
Amazon is aggressively trying to expand its Indian business, more than doubling its revenue in 2015-16 but also suffering deep losses as it chases market share from a homegrown rival, Flipkart. It has invested more than $5bn in India since 2014.
Flipkart and Ola, an Indian ride-sharing service, called in December for the government to enforce protectionist measures against Amazon and Uber.