India is offended by the 'barbaric' arrest of its diplomat in New York

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is "The World". It seems the US and India are in a game of diplomatic tit-for-tat. First, there was the arrest of India's deputy consul general in New York last week. Federal prosecutors accuse the diplomat of submitting false documents to obtain a visa for her Manhattan housekeeper. India's national security adviser called the arrest and alleged strip-search "despicable and barbaric". Today, as we hear now from Reuters correspondent Frank Jack Daniel in New Delhi, India removed the concrete safety barricades near the US Embassy there.

Frank Jack Daniel: There has been no official confirmation of why the barriers were removed, but the understanding is that they were removed in retaliation as part of a series of some five measures taken this afternoon.

Werman: Can you explain what those measures were?

Daniel: Yeah, there's a number of measures to reduce privileges given to US diplomats. I think India is feeling that it offers quite a lot of comfort to US staff in India and feels in the current situation it wants to reduce that. Some of those included the right to use lounges in airports. They're also going to check on the amount of salary being paid to domestic workers working at the US embassy here.

Werman: I mean I've got to say protective concrete barriers in front of the embassy don't really seem like a luxury. Aren't there international treaties that provide for protection? And can they just remove the barriers just like that?

Daniel: I think their position is the barriers have been there for some time. It sounded like they were claiming they were there on a discretionary basis. It is clearly a serious measure. India claims that security will be looked after by police in the area, but our witness who was down there, a Reuters photographer, said they were removed on several sides and the barriers effectively prevented vehicles from driving at speed near the embassy.

Werman: Well, it could drastically reduce security. I gather many are suspecting it's retaliation for the treatment and arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York last week. Tell us what happened to her.

Daniel: She was arrested on Thursday and it seems to be quite a long-running case regarding visa fraud, relating to the amount of money she said she was going to pay domestic help in New York, I mean Indian domestic help. It turned out she wasn't paying that amount and it was quite a complicated case, but it culminated in her being arrested on Thursday. Her lawyer has said that she was arrested on the street after dropping her daughter off at school and Indian media have reported, and this hasn't been challenged as far as I can see, that she was subjected to a strip search and treated in a fairly rough manner or what India considers an unnecessarily harsh manner. And that is what has sparked the current retaliatory measures.

Werman: Right. I mean this woman, her name is Devyani Khobragade, she's a senior consular officer with the Indian Consulate in New York. I mean if she wasn't paying her nanny a correct and legal wage and then charged with that, it's scandalous, but would it be enough to spark retaliation? Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Daniel: I haven't seen such cases and India and US have a pretty close relationship these days. They do have a history of mistrust, but a lot of that has been overcome. However, I think there's a lot of pressure in India, partly because elections are coming up and nobody wants to look soft, and they are particularly outraged. I mean within the government, there is a lot of outrage at the way she was treated. Regardless of the merits of the case, people will say, "Why was she arrested in this manner and why was she subjected to a strip search?" Yeah, that has produced the anger which was leading to this. I mean both sides of the political divider are united on this, there's a lot of angry voices from all over the government and from opposition political parties.

Werman: Anybody talking yet about where this could lead in Delhi?

Daniel: Not at the moment. I mean we will see tomorrow. I think the government is hoping, there has been some ministers speaking on television hoping that this will send a message and then from there they hope the United States will try and defuse the situation.

Werman: Reuters correspondent Frank Jack Daniel in New Delhi. Thanks for your time indeed.

Daniel: Thank you.