India outraged over Kalam frisking, US apologises

The United States on Sunday apologised to former president APJ Abdul Kalam for the incident involving his frisking at New York`s JFK Airport.

Updated: Nov 14, 2011, 00:30 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Amid growing outrage here, the United States on Sunday apologised to former president APJ Abdul Kalam for the incident involving his frisking at New York`s JFK Airport.

In a written apology to Kalam and the Indian government, the US said, "Appropriate procedure for expedited screening of dignitaries had not been followed".

"We deeply regret the inconvenience that resulted for him (Kalam) as a result of the September 29 incident involving the security screening at JFK Airport in New York," a statement from the US embassy here said, noting that it had the utmost respect for Kalam.

They also said that US was actively working to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.

The US apology came amidst Indian government’s strong reaction to the incident, which appeared to be snowballing into a diplomatic row between the two countries.

An outraged India government had earlier said it would subject US dignitaries to such action unless such "unacceptable" practices were stopped.

Hours after the matter was widely reported in the media here, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna spoke to Indian Ambassador to US Nirupama Rao and directed her to take up the matter in writing at the "highest level" with Washington.

According to officials, Krishna also sought a detailed report from its mission into the incident which they said was unacceptable. They further said that if this continues, there is a possibility of reciprocating as per diplomatic norms.

Notwithstanding previous protests, US officials had in September this year frisked Dr Kalam at the JFK Airport.

During the incident, which happened on September 29, US security men took Dr Kalam’s coat and shoes away while he was seated inside an Air India plane before departure.

According to reports, at around 2 pm local time frantic US security men entered the Air India aircraft after forcing the crew to open the door and insisted on frisking Dr Kalam. He had already been frisked once before entering the aircraft like any other passenger.

After Air India officials protested, US security men relented but still took away Dr Kalam’s coat and shoes which were returned after a swab analysis.

A swab analysis is conducted to detect any trace of explosives.

The government was apprised of the incident by both Air India and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS).

This was not the first time that Dr Kalam was frisked by US authorities. In April 2009, Dr Kalam was frisked at the Delhi airport by officials of the US-based Continental Airlines, despite his name featuring in the BCAS` list of people exempt from security checks in India. That incident had led to an uproar in Parliament.

Meanwhile, the main opposition BJP asked the asked the government to take up the issue with the US, saying this "cannot be tolerated".

"The way former President Kalam was treated was an insult to him. Government must take it up with the US," BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters.

CPI(M) also reacted strongly to the incident and demanded "reciprocal action" against US diplomats here.

"We have said this before. America being America, it will have its ways. We only want to say that we should go for reciprocal action. When our ambassador was frisked, we should do the same with the US ambassador here. Any self-respecting country would do it," CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said.