Zee Media Bureau/Himanshu Kapoor
New Delhi: As the row over the arrest of Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade escalates, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday described her treatment as "deplorable", US Secretary of State John Kerry today called National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and voiced regret over the manner in which the diplomat was treated.
"As a father of two daughters about the same age as Devyani Khobragade, the secretary empathises with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after Ms Khobragade`s arrest," state department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a written statement. "In his conversation with Menon, he expressed his regret, as well as his concern that we not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India," Harf further added.
Outraged by the incident, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said that Khobragade was the victim of a "conspiracy" and that some people had "trapped" her. “Who was put through both strip and cavity searches, procedures normally used for criminals,” asked Khurshid.
In a retaliatory move, India on Wednesday froze diplomatic perks for US consulates by revising work conditions of Indians employed in US consulates and a freeze on duty-free alcohol. Security barricades were also removed from the US embassy in New Delhi in reprisal against the arrest.
Khobragade, a deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in New York, was arrested on December 12 on charges of visa fraud and making false statements about how much she paid her housekeeper, an Indian national. The arrest triggered a dispute between the two countries.
The outrage over her treatment was further fuelled by an email from Khobragade in which she says she had been repeatedly stripped and cavity-searched by the US authorities.
Khobragade after her arrest was handcuffed and strip-searched. After collecting her DNA samples by a cavity search she was then placed in a cell with drug addicts for alleged visa fraud.
In an effort to smooth the diplomatic row, White House spokesperson Jay Carney said, "The United States and India enjoy a broad and deep friendship and this isolated episode is not indicative of the close and mutually respectful ties that we share.” He added, "We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India, and we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest, to ensure that all standard procedures were followed and that every opportunity for courtesy was extended."
The White House has offered to review the procedures that were followed in the diplomat`s arrest on charges of visa fraud. 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 afforded to Devyani Khobragade," Carney said.
On the question about the slew of retaliatory measures taken by India Carney said, "We have conveyed at high levels to the Government of India our expectations that India will continue to fulfill all of its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and Vienna Convention on Consular Relations."