US agrees with PM's remarks; says working to get ties on track

US has agreed with PM that the arrest of an Indian diplomat has caused hiccups in bilateral ties

Washington: The US has agreed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the arrest of an Indian diplomat has caused hiccups in bilateral ties, but said it is now focused on getting the relationship back on really strong footing.

"When you hear the Secretary (of State) express regret about something, that means that everything hasn't gone as it should," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters at her daily news conference on Friday, January 4.

She was responding to questions about the remarks made by Singh yesterday in New Delhi that the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in the US has resulted in hiccups in the bilateral ties. A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade, India's Deputy Consul General in New York, was arrested in December on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid. She was released on a USD 250,000 bond.

The 39-year-old diplomat was strip searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between the two sides with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps last month. The United States has been describing this as an isolated incident and have been saying that it wants to move forward. "What we're focused on now is getting the relationship back on really strong footing," Harf told reporters.

"We just have too much important work to do together going forward on a host of issues in the region and around the world." The US, she said, continues to review the paper work that the State Department received from the UN on the transfer of Khobragade to the Permanent Mission of India to the UN, which would give her the necessary diplomatic immunity.

"There's a judicial process, a legal process underway, and I don't have any estimates for how long that will all take to play out. There's also our diplomatic discussions as well. Just nothing new to announce or guess about here today," Harf said in response to a question.

Meanwhile, Harf also said that a video currently in circulation on the social media, which claims to be allegedly showing the CCTV footage of Khobragade's strip search after her arrest is a hoax, dangerous and provocative fabrication. "This video, which we are aware of, is absolutely not footage of Khobragade. We would call it a dangerous and provocative fabrication," she said.

The alleged video shows law enforcement officials strip searching a woman in custody. The woman is seen screaming, while she is being searched by police. "This hoax video, which I think has appeared on some news websites without obviously confirming its authenticity, because it's not, we find it deeply troubling, irresponsible and reckless and condemn, again, this dangerous fabrication. I want to make very clear this is not video of her," Harf said.

She said the State Department spoke with the US Marshals Service on this issue.

"They confirm that the footage in question does not depict US marshal employees, obviously that the search methods depicted in the video are not US marshals' policy. I haven't watched the video myself. But I want to be very clear in saying this is not how we do things here," she said. She also said that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal, is looking forward to her maiden visit to India. No dates have been announced yet.

"Our Assistant Secretary certainly looks forward to visiting India as soon as possible. It's my understanding there was nothing locked in stone on the calendar. I know there were some rumors out there. When it works in her schedule, she's very much looking forward to traveling there, to the region and talking to folks on the ground," she said.

Harf also welcomed India's decision to deploy an additional 150 police personal outside the US Embassy in New Delhi, weeks after removal of barricades outside the facility as a fallout of the arrest of Khobragade. "We welcome statements from the Ministry of External Affairs that India is fully committed to ensuring the safety and security of all diplomats in Delhi and elsewhere," she said.

"Beyond that (deployment of additional personnel), I'm not going to get into a lot of specifics about our security posture, but certainly we appreciate the police's efforts and we'll move forward from here," Harf added.

( Source : PTI )
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