New Delhi: India has taken an exceptionally strong stand over the public arrest, strip search and ill-treatment meted out to Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade in the United States of America by New York police. Signalling that benefits of all US consulates in India will be reviewed, sources say all US diplomats in India have been asked to hand over their identity cards that given them diplomatic benefits.
National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon used a very strong language and called the treatment of Devyani Khobragade barbaric while all Union ministers, too, have been asked not to meet a US Congressional delegation that is presently in India.
Minister of State Home RPN Singh said the decision of Union ministers to not meet the US delegation is in sync with what Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar's decided on Monday. "There is a code of conduct to be followed for diplomats. Any democratic country must follow that code," said Singh.
The tension between India and USA escalated further on Tuesday with Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi refusing to meet the US delegation.
The snub to the US delegation is seen as a strong message by both the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and the Congress party as they have been accused by the opposition parties of following a soft foreign policy.
The slew of diplomatic measures has been taken to leave the US "in no doubt of seriousness of India's concern over the issue of Devyani Khobragade". While External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid did meet the US delegation, he took up issue of diplomat's treatment strongly.
Devyani Khobragade was not only arrested on charges of visa fraud and handcuffed in public view last week but also stripped and searched in the police station in New York, according to latest reports. Several reports have also claimed that Devyani was kept in a lockup with common criminals and drug addicts.
But the US state department clarified stating that standard procedure was followed while arresting Devyani. "Well, I'd make a couple points. The State Department's Diplomatic Security - followed - excuse me - standard procedures during the arrest. 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," said US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Maries Harf in Washington DC.
"Well, again, that's why Diplomatic Security, which is under the State Department purview, followed standard procedures during her arrest. In terms of that specific, I think I'd probably - if it's part of the ongoing investigation and case, I'd have to point you to the Department of Justice for those specifics. I just don't have those details," added Harf.
Devyani's father, too, hit out at the US government over her arrest. "First thing, the arrest was wholly unjustifiable, what crime she has done? She is not a murder, she is not a criminal. So I feel this whole arrest was an alibi for something else. Was it such a serious offence that she was arrested on the road and treated in an inhuman way," he said.
Earlier, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had on Monday cancelled her meeting with the US Congressional delegation as a mark of protest against the treatment meted out to Devyani in New York.
Kumar, herself an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer who quit the service before joining politics, cancelled the meeting as she felt it was not "appropriate" to meet the Parliamentarians of the US, which has badly treated one of India's senior diplomats, according to sources.
Significantly, National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, who also had a scheduled meeting with the five-member US team, did not meet them, apparently for the same reason.
The 39-year-old Devyani, a 1999-batch IFS officer, was taken into custody last week on a street in New York as she was dropping her daughter to school and handcuffed in public on visa fraud charges before being released on a $250,000 bond after pleading not guilty in court.
"We are shocked and appalled at the manner in which she has been humiliated by the US authorities. We have taken it up forcefully with the US government through our embassy in Washington.
"We are also reiterating, in no uncertain terms, to US embassy here that this kind of treatment to one of our diplomats is absolutely unacceptable," Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akabaruddin had said here while reacting to the treatment meted out to Devyani.
Refused to meet the visiting USA delegation in solidarity with our nation, protesting ill-treatment meted to our lady diplomat in USA.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 17, 2013