India furious after diplomat arrested and strip-searched in New York


Right-wing Indian Hindu activists dressed as US President Barack Obama take part in a protest near the US Embassy in New Delhi on December 18, 2013. India vowed Wednesday to bring one of its diplomats home at any price after her arrest in New York.



The United States and India are in the middle of a diplomatic spat.

It began when India's deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested last week for allegedly submitting a fraudulent visa application for her housekeeper.

Khobragade, 39, was accused of paying her domestic help only $3 an hour, despite claiming in visa documents submitted to the State Department that she would pay her $9.50.

Indian officials vowed on Wednesday to bring Khobragade back at "any cost."

"It is my duty to bring the lady back and we have to restore her dignity and I will do it at any cost," Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid told India's parliament, according to Agence France-Presse.

Khobragade has pled not guilty and sought immunity under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

The US has said that her immunity is limited under the treaty.

The manner of her arrest has triggered outrage in India, with officials calling her treatment "despicable" and "barbaric." India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called her arrest "deplorable."

Khobragade was handcuffed by police, while she was dropping her children off at school. US officials confirmed that she was later strip-searched. Indian media cited her claiming that she was kept in a cell with "drug addicts."

The US Marshals Office told AFP on Wednesday that she was only held for four hours and "was subject to the same search procedures as other US Marshals Service arrestees held within the general prisoner population in the Southern District of New York, which in this case was a strip-search."

"It is no longer about an individual, it is about our sense of self as a nation and our place in the world," said India's foreign minister, Khurshid. Reports in Indian media suggested India was working on securing immunity for Khobragade.

The dispute has led to the Indian government taking retaliatory measures against US diplomats.

Earlier this week, concrete barriers in front of the US embassy in New Delhi were removed, exposing the building to potential security breaches.

India has also requested information on the salaries of all Indian staff employed by US embassies and consulates around the country.

It has also blocked import licenses, including those for alcohol, to the embassy.

One Indian diplomat also suggested India could retaliate against the gay partners of US diplomats.

"We also know who all have brought in their gay partners and on what grounds they were given visas though there is a law against it in India," the official was quoted as saying.

Yashwant Sinha, a former BJP foreign minister, suggested Tuesday that India should arrest gay US nationals in India, following a court ruling last week that upheld a ban on gay sex.

Secretary of State John Kerry "empathizes with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after Ms. Khobragade's arrest," said spokeswoman Marie Harf.

She added that Kerry expressed his regret to India's National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, and conveyed his concern that "we not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India."