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India Halts 'Commercial Activity' at US Embassy

  • VOA News

FILE - A private security guard stands outside the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, Dec. 18, 2013.
India has demanded an end to all commercial activities at a club at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, in what appears to be the latest retaliation for the arrest of an Indian diplomat.

India's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday gave a deadline of January 16 for the U.S. to stop allowing non-diplomats to use the facilities at the American Community Support Association.

U.S. diplomats and other American expatriates pay thousands of dollars each year to join the club, which houses a bar, restaurant, swimming pool, gym, bowling alley and other amenities.

Indian officials also announced they have pulled diplomatic immunity for U.S. officials who receive traffic violations.

The moves stem from the December 13 arrest in New York of Devyani Khobragade. The diplomat has pleaded not guilty to charges that she hired a household maid at much less than minimum wage and lied about it on a visa application.

India says she should have enjoyed diplomatic immunity, and has complained that she was strip-searched while in custody. U.S. officials have said they were only following protocol for such matters.

FILE - Devyani Khobragade at India's Consulate General, New York, June 19, 2013.
FILE - Devyani Khobragade at India's Consulate General, New York, June 19, 2013.
Khobragade faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. She has been released on bail. India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has vowed to bring her home.

New Delhi has already responded by asking U.S. consular officers to return their identity cards, rescinding airport passes and removing concrete security barriers from in front of the U.S. Embassy.

It has also restricted the import of duty-free alcohol and food, which could limit the ability of the embassy club to serve such products at low rates.

Indian officials refused to say whether they would shut down the club if the U.S. does not comply with its request to stop serving non-diplomatic customers. It says it is against diplomatic laws for an embassy facility to be used commercially.

U.S. officials have not commented on the demand.