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Arrest, detention of Indian diplomat in New York triggers uproar

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(CNN) — The arrest and detention of an Indian diplomat in New York on visa fraud charges has created a diplomatic uproar with punitive steps taken against State Department officials in New Dehli.

Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general, was arrested on Thursday as she dropped her daughter off at school.

Court papers alleged she submitted false documents to obtain a work visa for her female housekeeper.

Khobragade, 39, was held in a cell with other females and stripped searched in New York following her arrest, the U.S. Marshals Service said, noting such treatment was standard procedure in her case and that no policies were violated.

She eventually posted bond and was released.

But the matter has outraged Indian society and the New Dehli government, which called her treatment barbaric.

Indian officials summoned U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell, stripped American diplomats of identification cards that give them diplomatic benefits, and removed security barriers outside the U.S. embassy in New Dehli.

Several senior government ministers and politicians snubbed a visiting Congressional delegation as well.

“I think we have taken a tough stand. We do protect our foreign service officers and any other Indian that is unfairly treated outside,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Preneet Kaur. “And I think in the strongest diplomatic way we can take it up, it is being done.”

The State Department sought to prevent tensions from escalating further, while admonishing the Indian government on the punitive measures.

Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said appropriate procedures appear to have been followed by the Diplomatic Security agents who arrested Khobragade. She said conditions surrounding her processing by U.S. Marshals would be looked at.

“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 said.

She 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 we share.”

But Harf said Khobragade’s arrest should not be cause for a diplomatic tit-for-tat with reciprocal measures against U.S. diplomats

“This limited episode was somebody who was charged with a crime, is a separate and isolated incident,” Harf 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.”

“The safety and security of our diplomats and consular officers in the field is a top priority,” she added. ” We’ll continue to work with India to ensure that all of our diplomats and consular officers are being afforded full rights and protections.”

Harf said that Khobragade enjoys “consular immunity,” a limited diplomatic immunity related to her official duties. Under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, consular officials can still be arrested for acts committed outside of official job functions.

The Marshals Service, which oversaw her detention, said in a statement that Khobragade was “subject to the same search procedures” as others arrested and “held within the general prisoner population” along with other female defendants in a cell while awaiting court proceedings.

The statement said the service reviewed her treatment and determined that her “intake and detention” were in accordance with its policies.

CNN’s Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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