Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: After the national capital on Tuesday took a host of measures to show Washington that business cannot be normal after the ill-treatment meted out to Indian Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade by New York police, the United States said it is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the arrest of the Indian diplomat.
According to reports, the State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said, "We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India. Accordingly, we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended."
Harf added, "An isolated incident should not be allowed to cloud a very important relationship."
Reacting to a slew of steps taken by India to pare down the privileges of American diplomats in New Delhi in a retaliatory measure, Harf insisted that the US had acted "appropriately" and instead asked New Delhi to meet its diplomatic obligations.
Earlier during the day, Khobragade was put through strip and cavity searches, procedures normally used for criminals.
The 39-year-old deputy Consul General in New York, after being arrested and handcuffed in public while dropping her daughter to school on Thursday, was detained with sex workers and drug addicts, sources said.
"As a diplomat, she is entitled to certain courtesies. Let alone the courtesies, she was subjected to strip and cavity searches like an ordinary criminal," a source said.
The US said it is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended, adding this "isolated" episode is not indicative of the close and mutually respectful ties the two countries share.
When asked about the matter, US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf did not deny that the diplomat was made to go through the searches but maintained "standard procedures" were followed during her arrest.
Evading a direct answer to questions on whether Khobragade was strip searched and confined with drug addicts after her detention, Harf said, "Diplomatic Security, which is under the State Department purview, followed standard procedures during her arrest."
However, she referred allegations regarding the inhuman treatment of Khobragade to US Marshalls, saying the diplomat was handed over to them by the Diplomatic Security.
"Our Diplomatic Security folks followed our standard procedures, which I`m assuming are standard for diplomats because that`s who our Diplomatic Security deals with.
"We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India. Accordingly, we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended," she said in a statement, hours after India took a series of steps in retaliation of Khobragade`s arrest.
"While this is a law enforcement issue and will need to be worked through standard procedures and official law enforcement channels, we will continue to work this issue with India in the spirit of partnership and cooperation that marks our broad bilateral relationship," Harf said as the US went into a damage control mode following the unexpected tough stand taken by India and the political leadership from both the parties.
The 1999-batch IFS officer was released on a USD 250,000 bond after pleading not guilty in court.
In New Delhi, India reacted sharply to the arrest and strip search of Khobragade and initiated several steps to downgrade privileges enjoyed by American diplomats and their families, including withdrawing of airport passes and stopping import clearances for the US Embassy.
India also asked all US Consulate personnel and their families to turn in their ID cards immediately which will "now be downgraded on par with with what the US provides to our Consulates", sources said.
During her daily news conference, Harf said under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Indian Deputy Consul General enjoys immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts only for acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.
"There`s different kinds of immunity.?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.
India earlier summoned US Ambassador to New Delhi Nancy Powell and issued a demarche over the arrest of Khobragade. National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon described the incident as "despicable and barbaric".
His strong comments came as Indian leaders, including Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, refused to meet a US Congressional delegation as a mark of protest over the treatment meted out to the diplomat.
Yesterday, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Menon had cancelled their meetings with the US delegation.
US authorities alleged that Khobragade made "false statements" in the visa application of an Indian national employed as a babysitter and housekeeper at her home in New York.
With PTI inputs