The government of India has removed security barriers at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi in response to U.S. officials arresting and strip-searching one of its top female diplomats in New York. Indian politicians have condemned the treatment as "despicable and barbaric."
India's deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested last week, allegedly for submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for her Manhattan housekeeper, Fox News reported. Indian officials have argued, however, that she was arrested while dropping off her daughter at school, and was held in a cell with drug addicts before posting $250,000 bail.
She later wrote in an email published in Indian media that she faced "handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches" and was treated like a "common criminal."
"Although I must admit that I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a holdup with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity, I got the strength to regain composure and remain dignified thinking that I must represent all of my colleagues and my country with confidence and pride," Khobragade, 39, wrote.
As a direct response, workers in New Delhi have removed traffic barricades near the American Embassy in New Delhi, which served as a safety measure. Additionally, U.S. consular staff and their families have been told to surrender their ID cards, and the Indian government has withdrawn their airport passes, The Indian Express newspaper reported.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday denounced Khobragade's treatment at the hand of U.S. authorities, BBC News reported, while Foreign Minister Salman Khursheed pledged to restore the dignity of the diplomat.
"I think the most important, immediate concern is to ensure that no further indignity is inflicted upon the young officer. And we are taking steps to ensure legally whatever is possible that we implement that immediately," Khursheed said before the Indian parliament.
"In terms of giving a strong, unambiguous, direct message to the United States of America: whatever I believe we were supposed to do, we did immediately."
The U.S. Marshals Service Office of Public Affairs has confirmed that Khobragade was strip-searched. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf has attempted to downplay the situation, however, insisting that this was an "isolated episode" and is "not indicative of the close and mutually respectful ties" shared by the U.S. and India.
"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," Hard said in a statement on Tuesday.
Nevertheless, Indian politicians have continued voicing their outrage at the deputy consul general's treatment, with India's national security adviser, Shivshankar Menon, calling it "despicable and barbaric."
Indian Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh has further summoned U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell to register a complaint.
The latest international scandal for the White House follows allegations in October that the U.S. government has been spying on the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which her spokesman described as a "grave breach of trust."