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Devyani Khobragade: India-US row over diplomat deepens

Senior Indian government officials have refused to meet a visiting US Congress delegation amid a worsening row over the alleged ill-treatment of an Indian diplomat in the US.

Media reports on Tuesday said Devyani Khobragade was “strip-searched” after she was briefly arrested last week.

She was charged with visa fraud and making false statements over allegedly underpaying an Indian housekeeper.

Ms Khobragade, deputy consul general in New York, has pleaded not guilty.

The Indian government said it was “shocked and appalled at the manner” in which the diplomat had been “humiliated” in the US.

Washington has said that New York police followed “standard procedures” during her arrest.

“Diplomatic Security, which is under the state department purview, followed standard procedures during her arrest,” state department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters at a press conference on Monday.

‘A snub’

On Tuesday, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde cancelled his meeting with the senior US Congressional delegation and his office said he was busy in parliament, but media reports in India described it as a “snub” to the US.

The governing Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi also refused to meet the delegations.

“Refused to meet the visiting USA delegation in solidarity with our nation, protesting ill-treatment meted to our lady diplomat in USA,” Mr Modi tweeted.

On Monday, the Speaker of India’s parliament Meira Kumar and National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon had also refused to meet the visiting Congressional officials.

Mr Menon said Ms Khobragade’s treatment was “despicable and barbaric”.

Last week, Delhi also summoned the US ambassador to protest against the arrest and a foreign ministry official said India was “shocked and appalled” at the handling of the incident by the US.

Ms Khobragade, 39, was arrested last Thursday in New York and later freed on a $250,000 (£153,000) bond. Some reports in India said she was arrested while dropping her daughter at school and was handcuffed in public.

Latest media reports said she had been “subjected to a humiliating strip search and kept in a cell with drug addicts”.

Law enforcement authorities in New York say Ms Khobragade “allegedly caused a materially false and fraudulent document to be presented, and materially false and fraudulent statements to be made, to the US Department of State in support of a visa application for an Indian national employed as a babysitter and housekeeper at her home in New York”.

If found guilty, Ms Khobragade faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making false statements.


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