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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukraine PM Warns Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid