Confectionery giant Cadbury's has committed a gaffe of epic proportions after comparing a brand of chocolate to the disputed territory of Kashmir and describing both as "too good to share".
The blunder occurred in an advertisement to promote Cadbury's Temptations brand on India's independence day.
The newspaper campaign featured a map of India showing the war-torn area of Jammu and Kashmir shaded over. Written in bold across the shaded area was the message "Too good to share" - the advertising slogan for Cadbury's Temptations brand of chocolates.
"I'm good. I'm tempting. I'm too good to share. What am I? Cadbury's Temptations or Kashmir?" ran the catchline.
The campaign - the Indian equivalent of comparing a chocolate bar to the conflict over Northern Ireland - has caused a national outcry, with politicians from all parties demanding an apology from Cadbury's.
A leading member of prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's nationalist Bharatiya Janata party said the ads lacked "basic sensitivity" and threatened to take action against Cadbury's.
"Kashmir is a very sensitive issue and thousands of jawans [soldiers] have sacrificed their lives for it," Vinod Tawde, who heads the BJP's Mumbai chapter, told local newspapers.
"Such ads just trivialise the issue and lack basic sensitivity. How can an ad campaign, in the name of creativity, even imply that Kashmir is a state to be shared? That it is a state that our neighbour (Pakistan) is not getting? Why use an emotive issue like Kashmir to promote products?" he added.
Readers of the Times of India also reacted angrily to the campaign on the newspaper's website.
"Had such a thing happened in the US, Cadbury's stock and sales would have burrowed deep in the ground and its executives asked to apologise publicly. Shame on crass commercialism shown by Cadbury's. Shame on the management," wrote one.
Kashmir, the subject of two of the three wars between India and Pakistan, is divided between the two countries and claimed by both. An estimated 50,000 people have died since the revolt against Indian rule in the Muslim-dominated valley 12 years ago.
Two months ago the row over Kashmir brought India and Pakistan to the brink of another war.
Cadbury's India Limited apologised for the advert, saying it was issued "entirely in good faith, with no intention whatsoever to offend the sentiments of the public".
- 116 Human Rights