India sought to tamp down a furor yesterday over the arrest and strip-search of one of its diplomats in New York, insisting the episode should not be allowed to derail “strong” ties with the US.
Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs Salman Khurshid said a dialogue with Washington was under way to defuse the crisis sparked by the 48-hour detention of Indian Deputy Consular General Devyani Khobragade on Thursday last week.
“Our relationship is that of partners. Our mutual relations are very strong,” Khurshid said.
“I believe people in both the countries wouldn’t want the old ties we share to get unsettled by this one incident,” he said. “That is why the dialogue going on between us should be allowed to continue.”
Khurshid’s tone was milder than on Friday, when he termed the treatment of the 39-year-old Khobragade by US Marshals “hurtful” and “unacceptable.”
Also on Friday, protesters ransacked a Domino’s Pizza outlet in a Mumbai suburb, demanding a ban on US goods.
Police in Mumbai said they were stepping up patrols of major US outlets including McDonald’s after workers of the small Republican Party of India attacked the Domino’s store. The group sent pictures to media organizations showing a broken glass door.
“The fact is that [the] American authorities have behaved atrociously with an Indian diplomat. And obviously, America has to make good for its actions,” Indian Minister for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tiwari said on Friday.
“So therefore, I think it is a legitimate expectation, that if they have erred, and they have erred grievously in this matter, they should come forth and apologize,” he added.
The world’s two largest democracies have been at loggerheads since the arrest of Khobragade, who said she was handcuffed and subjected to an invasive body search.
The diplomat, a mother of two, now free on bail, was arrested over accusations that she lied about the salary she was paying her Indian servant in a US visa application.
India is trying to secure stronger diplomatic immunity for Khobragade by shifting her to its UN mission in New York, although such a move needs US Department of State approval.
New Delhi has taken a series of reprisals against the US last week, bulldozing security barricades around the US embassy and snubbing a visiting US delegation.