Devyani: India hits back at US

New Delhi, Dec 17 : India on Tuesday started hitting back at the United States over the maltreatment of its diplomat Devyani Khobragade by taking a clutch of measures against the US diplomats and their families in India with some moves as symbolic as removing barricades outside US embassy in New Delhi.

US diplomats and their families were asked to surrender their identity cards and their airport passes are being withdrawn after it was known that the Indian diplomat was strip searched and put with drug addicts in a cell in USA after her arrest over an alleged visa fraud.

India has asked the US officials here to submit salary details of their staffers and domestic helps they employed here besides seeking tax details of teachers from USA working in India.

India is stopping all import clearances for the American embassy.

Barricades outside the US embassy in Delhi were removed.

While BJP leaders like Yashwant Sinha went to the extent of asking for arresting gay US diplomats in India since the Supreme Court has now once again criminalized gay sex in India, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said they have communicated their dissent strongly.

"Disquiet very, very strongly felt. We have communicated the dissent we feel," said Khurshid.

"It is completely unacceptable. We have put in motion what we believe will be an effective way to address this issue and protect her dignity," he said, adding that "everything that can be done, will be done."

Following reports of ill-treatment of Indian Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade by the New York Police, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday reportedly refused to meet a US Congressional delegation.

According to latest reports, Khobragade, who was arrested for alleged visa fraud and handcuffed in public view last week, was allegedly stripped and searched at a police station in New York.

She was also allegedly kept in a lockup with common criminals and drug addicts.

The U.S. Department of State has said Khobragade does not enjoy immunity from US laws.

"Under the Vienna convention on consular relations, the Indian Deputy Consul General enjoys immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions," said a spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State.

"We are handling this incident through law enforcement channels. We have a long-standing partnership with India, and we expect that that partnership will continue," the spokesperson said.

Khobragade, 39, was arrested in New York for alleged visa fraud but was later released after furnishing a bond of 250,000 USD, officials said on Thursday.

According to reports and an Indian embassy statement, Khobragade was arrested by the US police while she was dropping her daughter in school on Dec 12, but released in the evening same day.

Khobragade is the Deputy Consul General in the Indian Consulate in New York.

Reacting to the incident, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson SyedAkbaruddin told media: "Dr. Devyani Khobragade is a diplomat who is in the US in pursuance of her duties and hence is entitled to the courtesy due to a diplomat in the country of her work. She is also a young mother of two small children. We are shocked and appalled at the manner in which she has been humiliated by the US authorities. We have taken this up forcefully with the US Government through our Embassy in Washington."

"We are also reiterating in no uncertain terms to the US Embassy here that this kind of treatment to one of our diplomats is absolutely unacceptable. The Ministry of External Affairs is working to resolve the matter at the earliest," he said.

India earlier summoned US ambassador to India Nancy Powell over the issue.

Reports said Khobragade was even handcuffed in public for allegedly making false statements on a visa application for an Indian who worked for her.

Reports said her arrest followed after it was apparently found that he falsified documents on the babysitter of her child and her housekeeper who was working at her place.

--IBNS (Posted on 17-12-2013)

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