Some local branches of global companies celebrated a Pakistani national day, the Kashmir Solidarity Day, that India sees as disrespectful to its sovereignty. Several brands published apologies.
When a national day celebration is politically controversial in another country, global companies like Hyundai, KFC, KIA or Domino’s struggled to avoid social media backlash.
Kashmir Solidarity Day is a national holiday celebrated in Pakistan every year on February 5. It is meant to support Kashmiris in the Indian-administered area of Jammu and Kashmir. Secessionist Kashmiris in the area also observe the day.
But it is an extremely sensitive matter in India.
Some local branches of global companies celebrated Kashmir Day on their social media channels in Pakistan. India didn’t like it at all.
When the Indian Ministry of External Affairs noticed a post from Hyundai Pakistan about Kashmir National Day on February 6, India’s ambassador in Seoul contacted Hyundai headquarters for explanations.
According to the Ministry spokesperson, the Korean ambassador in India was also summoned the next day to share the “strong displeasure of the government on the unacceptable social media posts” as the matter “concerned India’s territorial integrity on which there could be no compromise”.
Chung Eui-yong, Foreign Minister of South Korea also told his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar that he “regretted the offense”.
The next day, Hyundai India released a statement from Hyundai Motor Company explaining the company “does not comment on political or religious issues in any specific region”. The post also made clear that India’s subsidiary was not associated with the independent official distributor of Hyundai in Pakistan. The company asked the Pakistani distributor to remove the posts.
Jammu and Kashmir, which includes the south of the Kashmir region, is the subject of dispute between India and Pakistan since they became independent from the British Empire in 1947.
India is firm about its sovereignty on this part of the territory. In 2019, India removed the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and became part of the Union territory of India, administered like any other states of the country.
The region spurred several wars between the two countries, the creation of a Line of Control (LoC) guarded by military troops and regular fire exchanges. India also argues with China over the region.
In the Kashmir Valley, mainly composed of Muslims, Hizbul Mujahideens fight to become part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. They claimed responsibility for several terrorist attacks.
Hyundai isn’t the only brand to have published apologies as calls on social media calls to boycott companies supporting the Kashmir Day spread in India.
KFC India on February 7, “deeply apologized for a post that was published on some KFC social media channels outside the country”.
Kia India on February 8, took note of “unauthorized social media posts made by an independently-owned dealer based outside the country” and “deeply regrets the offense caused by this unofficial social media activity”.
Domino’s India “regrets and apologizes for the unsolicited social media post published on Domino’s social media handles outside the country”. The post itself Domino’s India is referring to seems to have been published from the corporate account but it actually dated back two years ago.
Isuzu India dissociated itself from the social media posts, Suzuki, Honda shared statements, too.
If social posts were removed from the Pakistani channels, they however didn’t publish the apologies to India to its Pakistani audience.