Despite mutual overtures by India and the US to end the diplomatic storm over the arrest and strip search of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York, the tension continues. Reportedly, New Delhi Tuesday withdrew the diplomatic identity cards of US consular officials in a retaliatory gesture.
According to the Press Trust of India (PTI), the tough reciprocal actions entails downgraded immunity of certain category and withdrawal of immunity enjoyed by the family members of US diplomats.
Reportedly, the new ID cards for US consular officials specify limited immunity which will not protect them from serious offences. This is in reciprocity with the restricted immunity provided to India’s Consular officials in the US.
The step comes following the end of the deadline for the surrender of identity cards provided to US consular staff.
US authorities arrested Devyani Khobragade Dec 12 over an alleged visa fraud case involving a maid she had taken from India.
Reportedly, Devyani was handcuffed in public and allegedly strip-searched and forced to undergo repeated body cavity searches before she was freed on a $250,000 bail bond.
India reacted strongly to US conveying that the manner of Khobragade’s arrest was unacceptable. India sought an unconditional apology and asked the US government to drop charges against the deputy consul general in New York.
Unhappy on the unjust treatment given to Devyani, India took a number of measures to curtail privileges enjoyed by the US diplomats. Earlier, it had asked all the US consular officials and their families to surrender their ID cards by Monday for a review of their immunity and other benefits.
According to India Today, new cards would be provided to the consular officials in lieu of withdrawn cards.
“These cards will only be given to the consular officials and not be provided to their family members since the family members of Indian consulate officials in the US are also not provided such cards. Earlier, family members were also being given such cards,” India Today reported.
In addition to the removal of identity cards, India took some other stringent steps to trim down the privileges of US diplomats here in a retaliatory measure.
Reportedly, US consular staffs have been permitted to import duty-free goods only during the first six months of assuming office instead of three years period provided earlier as per stipulations in the Vienna Conventions for Consular relations.
Further India is also investigating the bank accounts details of teachers employed at US embassy schools.
India also dismissed concerns about security of US diplomats in India. Reportedly, government sources reiterated that India takes its obligations under the Vienna Convention seriously and there has not been any loosening of security.
According to reports, the officials confirmed that there is no change in the security status and all US diplomatic and consular officials are being provided security as before.
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