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"Standard procedures", says US in Indian diplomat's arrest

Washington, Dec 17 (IANS) As media reports that Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was “strip-searched” after her arrest in New York threatened to escalate a diplomatic row between the two countries, the US suggested it had merely followed “standard procedures.”

While “no comment” was forthcoming from the Indian side about these reports, attributed to unnamed sources about Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, the US State Department sought to pass the buck to the justice department and the local police.

“The State Department’s Diplomatic Security followed standard procedures during the arrest,” spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters Monday when asked why the US was not respecting basic courtesies to a diplomat as it expected others to respect its own diplomats.

“After her arrest, she was passed on to the US marshals for intake and processing. So for any additional questions on her treatment, obviously, this would be the US Marshals and not us. I would refer you there,” she said.

According to media reports, Khobragade, who was arrested in New York last week over alleged visa fraud and exploiting her housekeeper and babysitter, was not only handcuffed, but was later strip-searched in custody and made to stand with common criminals, drug addicts and sex workers by the New York Police.

Khobragade, who was arrested on the street while she was dropping her daughter to school was later released on a $250,000 bail. She is due back in court in January.

On the question of Indian Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon canceling their meetings with a visiting congressional delegation to show India’s displeasure, the State Department spokesperson again sought to pass the buck.

“I think I’d probably point you to the congressional delegation to comment on that. I’m happy to look into what happened exactly further. I just don’t know the details,” she said.

Harf also made a distinction between “diplomatic immunity” and “consular immunity.”

“Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Indian deputy consul general enjoys immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions,” she said.

“This isn’t just in the US; it’s all around the world. So in this case, she fell under that specific kind of immunity, and would be liable to arrest pending trial pursuant a felony arrest warrant,” Harf said.

Asked about the US reaction to its Ambassador in New Delhi, Nancy Powell being summoned by the Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh to protest about the treatment meted out to Khobragade, the spokesperson had no

Harf said that after the arrest the US assistant secretary had discussed the matter with the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Embassy, while “Powell has had discussions on the ground. I just don’t have an update.”

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