India Snubs US in Tit-for-tat
By Santwana Bhattacharya | Published: 18th December 2013 07:26 AM |
The continuous humiliation of senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York by authorities there snowballed into a major issue here, with top politicians, including Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, refusing to meet a US Congressional delegation on Tuesday, to register their strong protest.
A livid India expressed its deep disapproval over the senior diplomat’s handcuffing, ‘strip search’ and her temporary incarceration in a cell with drug addicts after she was arrested for an alleged visa fraud relating to her absconding domestic help in New York last week, and responded with a slew of tit-for-tat measures.
In the tough retaliatory moves, New Delhi pared down the privileges of US diplomats in India, including asking the consular staff and their families to surrender their identity cards and withdrawing their airport passes. While the ID cards that entitle US diplomatic staff to special privileges were withdrawn by the Union Home Ministry after the Ministry of External Affairs sent it a list, the airport passes for consulates and import clearance for the embassy were also cancelled.
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The extent of anger over the inhumane treatment meted out to the 39-year-old diplomat, who’s the Deputy Consul General in New York, in violation of the Geneva Convention, was evident when the Delhi Police lifted the security barricades outside the US Embassy as part of the reciprocal act. India has also asked for visa and salary details of those employed in US consulates in the country, including those who work as domestic help at the homes of US diplomats as well as visa and salary details of teachers at US schools here to ascertain whether they were paying taxes.
High-level sources said there is “no question of taking back these measures till Khobragade is released.” They also ruled out “accepting an apology” — “no question of accepting anything short of her release. She should be allowed to leave the country and we will negotiate on best diplomatic practices with the US after that.”
Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid admitted, “It’s completely unacceptable. We’ve put in motion what we believe will be an effective way to address this issue and protect her (Khobragade’s) dignity. Everything that can be done, will be done.”
The remarks came along with the diplomatic snub given by the Lok Sabha Speaker, herself a former diplomat, to the US Congressional delegates. National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon too cancelled his meeting with the US team and termed the treatment meted out to Khobragade as “despicable’’ and “barbaric’’.