India: Arrest of Indian diplomat prompts spat with US

18th Dec 2013

India has reportedly ordered a series of reprisals over claims an Indian diplomat was strip-searched following her arrest in the United States. It has removed all concrete barriers outside the US embassy in New Delhi.

The row over the treatment of an Indian diplomat who was arrested in New York escalated on Tuesday when authorities in New Delhi removed all barriers in front of the embassy in apparent retaliation.

Police dragged away the concrete blocks running past the embassy and leading up to gates of the compound, which were designed to prevent vehicles from approaching the compound at speed.

Government officials and police have offered no explanation for the removal of the barriers, but Indian television networks cited unnamed sources who claim it was one of several reprisals planned.

India’s deputy consular general in New York Devyani Khobragade was arrested Thursday for allegedly giving false documents to support a visa application filed by her Indian housekeeper and with underpaying the domestic worker.

She was reportedly picked up by police while she was dropping her daughter at school. The US Marshals Service (USMS) confirmed Tuesday that she was later taken into custody and strip-searched.

In a statement the USMS said she was “subject to the same search procedures as other USMS arrestees held within the general prisoner population in the Southern District of New York.”

Khobragade was later freed on a on a 250,000-dollar bond after giving up her passport and pleading not guilty to the charges.

The US State Department has said all standard procedures were followed during the arrest.

US expresses concern

Responding to the removal of the barricades on Tuesday State Department spokeswoman Maria Harf said Washington was in talks with the Indian government to ensure US facilities were properly secured.

Washington has conveyed “at high levels” its expectation that the government of India will continue to fulfill all of its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Harf said.

“We understand there are sensitive issues involved here,” she added. “We don’t want this to negatively impact our bilateral relationship.”

India has demanded an unconditional apology over Khobragade’s treatment and has withdrawn all airport clearance passes for US consulates and consular identification cards.

Earlier this week several top Indian officials, including the leaders of the two main political parties and the national security adviser, also cancelled meetings with a visiting US congressional delegation.

India reportedly also sought details of salaries paid to Indian staff at US missions in the country, including domestic help of US diplomats.

Khobragade faces a maximum 15 years in jail if convicted on both charges.

ccp/av (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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