India Threatens to Cancel Amazon Employees' Visas over Indian Flag Doormats

Following a stern message by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj over the sale of doormats depicting the tricolour, Amazon on Thursday expressed regret for "offending" Indian sentiments and informed her about the removal of the product from its Canadian website. Amazon claimed that the product was listed by a third-party seller for sale in Canada.

On Wednesday, the Foreign Minister had said in her tweets that Amazon must apologise and should immediately withdraw all products insulting the Indian flag otherwise Amazon officials would not be granted Indian visas.

Disrespecting the national flag is a punishable offense under the Prevention of Insults to Honor Act, 1971. She also asked acting High Commissioner of Canada to India, Arun Kumar Sahu, to lodge a protest with the top brass of Amazon.

Amazon's customer service team also addressed the issue on one of its Twitter accounts, saying Amazon's India site never sold the products.

"At no time did we intend or mean to offend Indian sentiments", Agarwal said.

Wednesday's incident was neither Amazon's first brush of controversy in India, nor even concerning doormats.

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Serious questions are being raised about Amazon's monitoring system of its vendors and products after more items with the Indian national flag was reported by users.

A spokesperson for Amazon Canada declined to provide any additional comment.

"Our Mission in Ottawa took up the matter with Amazon Canada", Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup told the Toronto Star.

Swaraj threatened to refuse an Indian visa to any Amazon official and rescind visas that had previously been issued if the company didn't take action.

"We have escalated this to our concerned teams and are working on the issue", the tweet said. "After learning of the products' listing, we immediately removed them from the Canadian website and implemented measures to ensure that these products could not be sold on any of our other marketplaces or websites", he said. Its portals in the US, UK, France and Germany also have doormats depicting the American and British flags.