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South Korean envoy to India summoned over pro-Kashmir post

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NEW DEHLI: India has summoned South Korea’s ambassador to protest against a social media post about disputed Kashmir by Hyundai Motor’s partner in Pakistan, an official said.

The envoy was called to the Foreign Ministry, spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Tuesday, where he was told the “offending” Facebook post “concerned India’s territorial integrity on which there could be no compromise.”

Hyundai, a South Korean automobile manufacturer, is facing a severe backlash in India after its partner in Pakistan commemorated on Facebook what it called “the sacrifices of Kashmiris struggling for self-determination.” 

The post was made by Pakistan’s Nishat Group, the country’s largest business conglomerate, on Saturday, when Pakistan marked its annual Day of Solidarity with Kashmir.

“Let us remember the sacrifices of our Kashmiri brothers and stand in support as they continue to struggle for freedom,” a Twitter account associated with the automaker’s Pakistan operations posted on Sunday. 

Bagchi said in a statement that the foreign ministers of India and South Korea also spoke over the phone, and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong said he “regretted the offence caused to the people and government of India by the social media post.”

The backlash in India was mostly felt on social media, particularly Twitter, where people demanded an apology from the company and called for a boycott.

Hyundai Motor India issued a statement on Tuesday calling the post by its Pakistan partner “unsolicited” and “offending.”

Hyundai is the second-largest car seller in India after Maruti Suzuki, which is owned by Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp.

Pakistan-based social media properties connected to Pizza Hut, KFC, and Domino’s Pizza were among those also posting messages to mark the Kashmir holiday, prompting boycott calls among incensed Indian social media users. 

The posts were later deleted and several brands later issued apologies elsewhere. 

KFC’s India arm expressed remorse for a post that appeared “on social media channels outside the country” in a tweet on Monday.

“We honour and respect India, and remain steadfast in our commitment to serving all Indians with pride,” it added.

Control and sovereignty of Kashmir have been contested between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947 and the nuclear-armed foes have fought two wars over the disputed territory over which the UN has passed several resolutions, calling for a plebiscite. 

Both countries regularly trade heated diplomatic barbs over the issue and Pakistan marks every February 5 as a national holiday in a gesture of solidarity with people living on the Indian-administered side of the region.

Over 500,000 Indian troops are deployed in the territory, battling a popular insurgency from rebel groups demanding independence or Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan.

The region is one of the most heavily militarised in the world. 

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and Indian forces have been killed in the conflict.

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