Cordon lifted at UK mission over vandalism in London | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Cordon lifted at UK mission over vandalism in London

Mar 22, 2023 11:57 PM IST

New Delhi India on Wednesday reduced security outside the British high commission and the envoy’s residence in retaliation for a violent protest by pro-Khalistan elements outside the Indian mission in London over the weekend, people familiar with the matter said

New Delhi India on Wednesday reduced security outside the British high commission and the envoy’s residence in retaliation for a violent protest by pro-Khalistan elements outside the Indian mission in London over the weekend, people familiar with the matter said.

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Barricades and a post for paramilitary personnel outside the UK mission at Shanti Path in the Chanakyapuri diplomatic enclave and British high commissioner Alex Ellis’s residence at Rajaji Marg were removed by Wednesday afternoon. The security personnel posted outside the mission were also withdrawn, the people said.

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Reacting to the development, a British high commission spokesperson said: “We do not comment on security matters.”

There was no official word on the matter from the external affairs ministry.

The development followed a security assessment at the highest levels of the government after a violent protest outside the Indian high commission in London on Sunday, when pro-Khalistan activists were able to clamber onto a balcony and pull down the national flag from a pole at the front of the building.

The protests in London on March 19 began hours after Punjab Police launched a statewide manhunt against pro-Khalistani separatist preacher Amritpal Singh and his followers, arresting nearly 100 people on the first day and suspending mobile internet and text messaging services across the state. Singh, who is accused in eight first information reports (FIRs) for abduction, inciting violence, and disturbing social harmony, is linked to the Khalistani secessionist movement. He remains on the run, five days after the crackdown was launched. The state action sparked protests in the US, UK, Australia and Canada.

London police arrived at the scene long after the protest began, leading to anger on the Indian side, which reportedly shared intelligence inputs with British authorities about the possibility of demonstrations by pro-Khalistan activists turning violent, the people said.

India reacted angrily to developments in London, with British deputy high commissioner Christina Scott being summoned to the external affairs ministry late on Sunday night to register a strong protest over “actions taken by separatist and extremist elements” against the Indian mission.

The Indian side demanded an explanation for the “complete absence of the British security” that allowed pro-Khalistan elements to enter the mission premises, and the UK government was asked to take “immediate steps to identify, arrest and prosecute each one of those involved” in Sunday’s protest.

The Indian side further asked Britain to put in place “stringent measures” to prevent the recurrence of such incidents and reminded it of its obligations under the Vienna Convention. “India finds unacceptable the indifference of the UK Government to the security of Indian diplomatic premises and personnel in the UK,” a statement from the external affairs ministry had said.

Ellis, who is away from India, condemned the “disgraceful acts” against the premises of the Indian mission in London and said in a tweet that they were “totally unacceptable”.

A sizeable number of London police personnel were posted outside the Indian mission during another protest by pro-Khalistan elements on Wednesday, and prevented them from getting close to the mission. Pro-Khalistan groups have protested outside Indian missions in several countries to oppose the crackdown in Punjab against radical Sikh preacher Amritpal Singh, who has been declared a fugitive, and his aides.

India also lodged a strong protest with the US on Monday over vandalism at its consulate in San Francisco during a similar protest.

In San Francisco on Sunday, around 200 Khalistani sympathisers gathered outside the consulate. Though local police put up security barricades, protesters swarmed in and planted two Khalistan flags at the consulate. When Indian security officials removed the flags and handed them over to the protesters, pro-Khalistan activists broke through the barricades and used flagpoles to attack the consulate, smashing windows and hitting the doors.

The people cited above said Indian authorities had detected patterns that indicated the protests in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US were coordinated.

This is not the first time India has taken such a move. Following the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York in 2013 on charges of visa fraud, barricades outside the US embassy in New Delhi were removed by Indian authorities.

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