Devyani arrest: Kerry calls NSA Menon

Washington, Dec 19 : US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday called National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon to discuss the arrest of Indian Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade in New York on visa fraud charges.

"Today Secretary Kerry called Indian National Security Advisor Menon to discuss the December 12th arrest of Deputy Consul General Khobragade," said a press statement issued by US state department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf on Wednesday.

"The Secretary understands very deeply the importance of enforcing our laws and protecting victims, and, like all officials in positions of responsibility inside the U.S. Government, expects that laws will be followed by everyone here in our country.

"It is also particularly important to Secretary Kerry that foreign diplomats serving in the United States are accorded respect and dignity just as we expect our own diplomats should receive overseas," said Harf.

"As a father of two daughters about the same age as Devyani Khobragade, the Secretary empathizes with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after Ms. Khobragade's arrest, and in his conversation with National Security Advisor Menon he expressed his regret, as well as his concern that we not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India," said the spokesperson.

As the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday unanimously condemned the public arrest and ill-treatment of Devyani Khobragade in New York, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley said India should negotiate with the US on the issue as equals.

"We should negotiate as equals. We conduct our foreign policy in a manner that we can be taken for granted. We should take this incident in its seriousness." said the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha.

"We must ensure that necessary correctives are taken. Many countries protested on US snooping, we didn't. It allows other nation to take us for granted," he said.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati on Wednesday created a controversy by saying Devyani Khobragade is a Dalit and hence the Centre reacted late on the issue.

"I know I should not bring caste into this issue. But it seems the central government reacted late since this girl is a Dalit," Mayawati said in the Rajya Sabha.

"What happened with the girl was inappropriate. The method which the US followed in checking the girl is not acceptable," she said.

Her statement immediately created an uproar in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament with Congress MPs protesting against her remark.

To that, Mayawati said: "Why is the Congress creating a ruckus in Parliament? Let's admit she is a Scheduled Caste."

"We must take up the issue with the US and be firm about it. Also, we need to check our foreign policy."

Meanwhile, India on Tuesday started hitting back at the United States over the maltreatment of 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."

--IBNS (Posted on 19-12-2013)

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