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India threatens Amazon over flag doormat

Posted at 11:58 AM, Jan 11, 2017

LONDON (CNNMoney) -- India has threatened to cancel the visas of Amazon employees if the retailer continues to sell doormats featuring the country's flag.

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj made the threat Wednesday on Twitter, saying that if the offending product is not removed from Amazon's Canada website, she would not grant visas to Amazon officials and "rescind the visas issued earlier."

Swaraj described the product as "unacceptable" and directed the Indian High Commission in Canada to take the issue up with Amazon at "the highest level."

"Amazon must tender unconditional apology," she said. "They must withdraw all products insulting our national flag immediately."

Amazon representatives in the United States did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But a company spokeswomen in India said they needed "time to assess and respond."

One of the company's customer service accounts on Twitter also addressed the issue, saying the products were never sold on Amazon's India site.

"We have escalated this to our concerned teams and are working on the issue," the tweet said.

The flag's product listing page was soon inundated with comments.

"You cannot insult a national flag of India by making a doormat of it," said one user. "Delete this listing immediately."

The product rating also reflected anger: The doormat had a couple 5-star ratings, but 46 ratings of only 1-star.

Like many countries, India maintains a Flag Code that stipulates how the national symbol should be treated. The rules state that the flag, often called the Tricolour, should never touch the ground.

It also prescribes very specific ways in which the flag should be flown. It should never be printed on clothing or furniture. Using it as a doormat would violate multiple rules.

Vikas Swarup, a spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry, said he had nothing to add to the minister's tweets.

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