Even as it spoke of a ‘broad and deep friendship’ and an ‘important relationship’ with India, US officials on Tuesday expressed no regret, leave aside an ‘unconditional apology’ demanded by India over the arrest and alleged strip search of Khobragade. Angry India downgrades privileges of US diplomats (Agencies)
Reacting to a slew of retaliatory measures taken by India in response to the treatment of Khobragade, the State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said ‘an isolated episode’ should not impact the bilateral relationship.
According to Indian officials, Khobragade, 39, was strip-searched, cavity-searched and swabbed for DNA after her arrest in New York on charges of visa fraud last Thursday, then confined with hardened drug criminals before being released on a USD 250,000 bail.
India's National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon has called the treatment ‘despicable and barbaric’.
"We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India," Harf said.
"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 said.
"So far there is nothing to indicate that anything but appropriate measures were followed," Harf said.
"But again, we don't want this to negatively impact our bilateral relationship, and we'll keep talking about it with them on the ground and here," she said.
"The US and India enjoy a broad and deep friendship, and this isolated episode is not in any way indicative of the close and respectful ties that we share and will continue to share," Harf said.
"US officials 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,” she said.
"Obviously, the safety and security of our diplomats and consular officers in the field is a top priority,” she added.
"The US will continue to work with India to ensure that all of our diplomats and consular officers are being afforded full rights and protections,” she said.
"Also, of course, safety and security of our facilities as well is something we take very seriously, and we'll keep working with the Indians on that,” Harf said.
Adding a new dimension to the case, Harf also claimed that the State Department had advised the Indian Embassy in writing in September of allegations of abuse made by an Indian national against the deputy consul general of India in New York.
"Obviously, we play a role in this, but the Department of Justice also obviously handles the legal aspect of it as well," she said.
However, Harf said she was "not aware" if the Indian Embassy had informed the State Department about a pending court case in India against Khobragade's former India-based domestic assistant, Sangeeta Richard, who has been absconding since June this year.
The US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is currently in the Philippines, was ‘aware of what's going on’ and the State Department has had ‘conversations’ with the White House about the issue.
Asked if Khobragade was strip-searched, Harf said the State Department was looking into what transpired.
While the US State diplomatic security had followed "standard procedures" she could not speak for the US marshals, who took the diplomat into custody.
But in response to specific news media queries about whether a strip search had been conducted on the Indian diplomat, the US Marshals Service confirmed that "standard arrestee intake procedures" were followed.
Even as it spoke of a ‘broad and deep friendship’ and an ‘important relationship’ with India, US officials on Tuesday expressed no regret, leave aside an ‘unconditional apology’ demanded by India over the arrest and alleged strip search of Khobragade.
Angry India downgrades privileges of US diplomats