UK & World News

  • 17 December 2013, 15:57

India: US Embassy Barriers Removed Over Spat

India has launched a series of reprisals against US officials in retaliation for the arrest and alleged heavy-handed treatment of an Indian diplomat in New York.

The government ordered the return of identity cards for US consular officials that speed up travel into and through India.

Import clearances for the US embassy will also be stopped, while New Delhi police used two trucks and bulldozers to remove concrete security barricades from in front of the US embassy.

Politicians in India, including the leaders of the two main political parties and the national security adviser, refused to meet a delegation of US politicians earlier this week.

Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York was arrested while dropping her daughter at school last week, for allegedly underpaying her nanny and committing visa fraud to get her into the US.

She was also allegedly handcuffed during her arrest,  strip-searched and "confined with drug addicts" before being released on $250,000 bail and surrendering her passport. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

National security adviser Shivshankar Menon branded the treatment "barbaric".

Foreign minister Salman Khurshid said the arrest was "completely unacceptable".

He added: "We have put in motion what we believe would be effective ways of addressing the issue but also (put) in motion such steps that need to be taken to protect her dignity."

But US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said that diplomatic security staff had followed standard procedures during the arrest and then handed her over to US Marshals.

Indian TV reported the foreign ministry was considering checking the salaries paid by US embassy staff to domestic helpers and the withdrawal of certain privileges for some US diplomats and their families.

A statement issued by the public attorney for the Southern District of New York claimed Ms Khobragade had agreed with her nanny to pay just over a third of the $9.75 US law minimum rate.

India summoned the US ambassador on Friday to protest at the arrest.

Ms Khobragade faces a maximum of 15 years in jail if convicted on both counts.

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