News / Asia

    India Trims Perks for US Embassy Staff Over Diplomatic Row

    A U.S. embassy security guard (L) and an Indian policeman stand in front of the main gate of the embassy as the bulldozer (unseen) removes the security barriers, in New Delhi Dec. 17, 2013.
    A U.S. embassy security guard (L) and an Indian policeman stand in front of the main gate of the embassy as the bulldozer (unseen) removes the security barriers, in New Delhi Dec. 17, 2013.
    Reuters
    India took retaliatory measures against the United States on Wednesday in a row over an Indian diplomat who complained of being stripped and forced to undergo “cavity searches” while in U.S. detention.
     
    The measures included a revision of work conditions of Indians employed at U.S. consulates and a freeze on the import of duty-free alcohol.
     
    Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in an undated picture from her Twitter account.Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in an undated picture from her Twitter account.
    x
    Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in an undated picture from her Twitter account.
    Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in an undated picture from her Twitter account.
    Devyani Khobragade, a deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in New York, was arrested on Dec. 12 on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her housekeeper, an Indian national. She was released on a $250,000 bail.
     
    In an email to colleagues, Khobragade complained of “repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing” and being detained in a holding cell with petty criminals despite her “incessant assertions of immunity”.
     
    The email, reported in Indian media and confirmed as accurate by the government, caused outrage. With a general election due soon, politicians are determined not to be seen as soft on such an issue or unpatriotic.
     
    On Tuesday, authorities removed concrete security barriers used to prevent vehicles driving at high speed near the U.S. embassy in New Delhi. The barriers would offer some protection against a suicide-bomb attack.
     
    The U.S. Justice Department has confirmed that Khobragade was strip-searched. A senior Indian government source confirmed that the interrogation also included a cavity search.
     
    India has responded furiously to what it considers the degrading treatment of a senior diplomat by the United States, a country it sees as a close friend.
     
    “It is no longer about an individual, it is about our sense of self as a nation and our place in the world,” Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid told parliament, whose usually fractious members showed rare unity on the issue.
     
    Khurshid said work conditions of Indians employed in U.S. consulates would be investigated, to root out any violations of labor laws, and there would be a freeze on the duty free import of alcohol and food for diplomatic staff.
     
    Several politicians argue that India provides too many perks to U.S. consular staff. Khurshid reined in some of these on Wednesday, saying passes giving such staff access to airport lounges had to be turned in by Thursday.
     
    Small protest
     
    A police officer stops a group of Indians protesting against the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, an Indian consular officer in New York, outside the U.S consulate in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 16, 2013.A police officer stops a group of Indians protesting against the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, an Indian consular officer in New York, outside the U.S consulate in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 16, 2013.
    x
    A police officer stops a group of Indians protesting against the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, an Indian consular officer in New York, outside the U.S consulate in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 16, 2013.
    A police officer stops a group of Indians protesting against the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, an Indian consular officer in New York, outside the U.S consulate in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 16, 2013.
    Supporters of a right-wing opposition party held a small protest near the U.S. embassy on Wednesday. About 30 demonstrators, some wearing masks of President Barack Obama and sarongs made from the U.S. flag, demanded an apology.
     
    “It was very good that the government removed the barriers yesterday. Until the USA says sorry, we should not give any security at all to the Americans,” said protester Gaurav Khattar, 33.
     
    The U.S. State Department said it had told the Indian government it expects New Delhi to protect its embassy and stressed it did not want the incident with the diplomat to hurt ties.
     
    The embassy did not respond to requests for information about what action would be taken to replace the barriers. The compound has several other layers of security and is protected by a high wall.
     
    Status conscious Indian dignitaries are often able to skip security checks and deal with legal problems discreetly in India. Less delicate handling abroad can be a shock.
     
    A series of incidents in which politicians and celebrities have been detained or frisked at U.S. airports has heightened sensitivities about what is seen as harsh treatment abroad.
     
    Shah Rukh Khan, one of Bollywood's best-loved actors, was detained at White Plains airport near New York last year and at Newark airport in 2009. Former president APJ Abdul Kalam was frisked on board a plane at New York's JFK airport in 2011.
     
    The Khobragade case is the latest concerning the Indian elite's alleged exploitation of their domestic workers, both at home and abroad.
     
    Another official at India's consulate in New York was fined almost $1.5 million last year for using her maid as forced labor. Last month, the wife of a member of parliament was arrested in Delhi for allegedly beating her maid to death.
     
    India says Khobragade's former housekeeper left her employer a few months ago and demanded help to obtain permanent resident status in the United States. She is thought to be in the United States but her whereabouts are not known.
     
    One Indian government minister, Shashi Tharoor, has argued that it was not reasonable to expect diplomats from developing countries to pay the U.S. minimum wage to domestic staff, since the envoys themselves earned less than that.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.