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Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade strip-searched, say sources; Shinde, Rahul Gandhi, Modi refuse to meet US delegation

Agencies | December 17, 2013, 14.12 pm IST
Devyani Khobragade - File photo via Facebook
Devyani Khobragade - File photo via Facebook

New York: Few days after India's Deputy Consul General in New York Devyani Khobragade was handcuffed in public, shocking details emerged on the treatment meted out to the diplomat, prompting India to take reciprocal actions.

Declaring India's strong protest, the govt asked US to return all identity cards issued to their consular officers posted in the country. The displeasure was also evident among leaders and officials of Indian government.

In a major snub on Tuesday, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has refused to meet a US Congressional delegation in protest against the arrest and subsequent treatment meted to the Indian diplomat. The meeting, which was slated on Monday, did not take place because Gandhi wanted to register his disapproval of the American treatment of Indian diplomat, sources said.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde also cancelled his meeting with the delegation ostensibly as a mark of protest against the treatment meted out to Indian officer.

However, Home Ministry officials said Shinde is busy in Parliament and, hence, he will not be in a position to meet the American delegation. The Home Minister's programme, which was prepared last evening, had clearly mentioned the scheduled meeting at 1700 hours. Officials said the meeting was cancelled this morning.

BJP's PM candidate Modi, who was also supposed to meet the US team, too cancelled the meeting. 

"Refused to meet the visiting USA delegation in solidarity with our nation, protesting ill treatment meted to our lady diplomat in USA," Modi tweeted.

Addressing reporters later, Foreign Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said, "We have conveyed our sense of disquiet to the US as a protest to treatment meted out to India's Deputy Consul General in New York."

Throwing diplomatic niceties towards a friendly country to the winds, the IFS officer was put in a prison cell with sex workers and drug addicts, the sources said. 

Sources said that she was held with common criminals and was strip-searched in custody by the New York Police. She was also subjected to DNA swabbing in the prison, a technique employed by forensic scientists to assist in the identification of individuals by their respective DNA profiles.

In an escalating diplomatic row on Tues, India has asked the US to return IDs issued to all its consular officers posted in the country, a move which may be a precursor to reviewing immunity and benefits enjoyed by them as a protest to the treatment meted out to Devyani Khobragade.

"Government has asked the US to return the ID cards given to their consular officers posted in India," Government sources told PTI.

It is understood that the government intends to review the immunity and benefits enjoyed by US diplomats. 

39-year-old Khobragade, a 1999-batch IFS officer, was taken into custody last week on a street in New York as she was dropping her daughter to school and handcuffed in public on visa fraud charges before being released on a USD 250,000 bond after pleading not guilty in court.

Slamming the US authorities, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon said that the treatment meted out to the diplomat was 'barbaric and despicable'.

However, the US state department maintained that standard procedures followed during Indian diplomat's arrest. Khobragade declined to comment on the issue.

Talking to reporters, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said, "I don't think this is indicative of being taken for granted. But certainly it is not a good indication that a diplomat should be treated like this....we strongly object to the manner the whole incident has been (taken place)."

She was asked if the US takes India for granted and the arrest of the diplomat was manifestation of that. The minister also said there are ways and means to convey objection diplomatically which was being done. 

On Monday, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had cancelled her meeting with the US delegation in Delhi as a mark of protest against the treatment meted out to India's Deputy Consul General.

Kumar, herself a Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer who quit the service before joining politics, cancelled the meeting as she felt it was not 'appropriate' to meet the Parliamentarians of the US, which has badly treated one of India's senior diplomats, according to sources.

Significantly, National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, who also had a scheduled meeting with the five-member US team, did not meet them, apparently for the same reason.

The delegations comprised of Congressmen George Holding (Republican- North Carolina), Pete Olson (Republican- Texas) David Schweikert (Republican- Arizona), Robert Woodall (Republican- Georgia), Madeleine Bordallo (Democrat- Guam).

Monday's snub came after India reacted sharply to Devyani Khobragade's arrest last week by summoning US Ambassador Nancy Powell and issuing a demarche in this regard.

In Washington also the matter was taken up with the US government "forcefully" through the Indian mission. 

"We are shocked and appalled at the manner in which she has been humiliated by the US authorities. We have taken it up forcefully with the US government through our embassy in Washington.

"We are also reiterating, in no uncertain terms, to US embassy here that this kind of treatment to one of our diplomats is absolutely unacceptable," Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akabaruddin had said here while reacting to the treatment meted out to Khobragade. 

 

 

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