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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

SRK frisking: US apologises, India summons US deputy chief of mission

Agencies  New Delhi, April 13, 2012
First Published: 14:03 IST(13/4/2012) | Last Updated: 02:10 IST(14/4/2012)

In a strong reaction to detention of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan at a New York airport, India on Friday summoned a top American diplomat after external affairs minister SM Krishna said "detention and apology" have become a habit with the US, which cannot continue.

Asserting that "mechanical apology" from the US was not adequate, New Delhi also asked its Ambassador in Washington Nirupama Rao to take up the issue with the highest authorities.

According to the sources, the US Deputy Chief of Mission Donald Lu was summoned by Joint Secretary (Americas) Javed Ashraf and was conveyed India's "concern" over the issue.

Earlier on the day, the United States apologised to Shah Rukh Khan for "an inconvenience" experienced by him at the White Plains airport in New York while on a visit.

Khan was in the US on the invitation of Yale University, which honoured him. But before reaching Yale, Khan was detained for one-and-half hours at White Plains for secondary security checks by the US Customs and Border Patrol agency.

The US Embassy in New Delhi issued a statement on Friday evening apologising for the incident.

"Please allow me on behalf of our diplomatic mission in India to apologize if Mr. Shah Rukh Khan experienced an inconvenience or delay yesterday in White Plains, New York, on his way to Yale University," the US embassy spokesperson, Peter Vrooman, told reporters in New Delhi.

The US immigration authorities apologised for the incident, but that did not seem to pacify New Delhi that reacted sharply, telling Washington this “habit of detention and then apology” won't do.

The immigration authorities allowed him to go only after his hosts intervened and took up the issue with the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, said sources.

Sensing public outrage in India, the US customs and border protection authorities later expressed “profound” apologies over Khan's detention. Khan's name was "flagged" in the system and airport people needed approval of senior authorities to clear him, it clarified.

India was upset, specially as this was the second time Khan was being detained at a US airport in the last three years, and told the US off, telling that it must this pattern of detention and apology. In August 2009 also, Khan was stopped at the Newark Airport and was released after two hours at the intervention of the Indian consulate in New York.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, who is in Moscow to attend a trilateral meeting of India, Russia and China, asked India's ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao to take up the issue with US authorities. “This has become a habit of detention and then apology, this cannot continue. We need an assurance that this won't happen again,” he said Friday. 

The immigration authorities allowed him to go only after his hosts intervened and took up the issue with the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, said sources.

Sensing public outrage in India, the US customs and border protection authorities later expressed “profound” apologies over Khan's detention. Khan's name was "flagged" in the system and airport people needed approval of senior authorities to clear him, it clarified.

India was upset, specially as this was the second time Khan was being detained at a US airport in the last three years, and told the US off, telling that it must this pattern of detention and apology. In August 2009 also, Khan was stopped at the Newark Airport and was released after two hours at the intervention of the Indian consulate in New York.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, who is in Moscow to attend a trilateral meeting of India, Russia and China, asked India's ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao to take up the issue with US authorities. “This has become a habit of detention and then apology, this cannot continue. We need an assurance that this won't happen again,” he said Friday. 

Unfazed by his detention at a New York airport by US immigration authorities for a couple of hours, Shah Rukh Khan, joked about the incident later at Yale University, where he was honoured as a Chubb Fellow.

Khan was detained at New York's White Plains airport, about 35 miles from New York, when he arrived on Thursday on a private plane along with Nita Ambani, wife of Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani.

While Ambani, whose student daughter Isha is president of the South Asian Society at the university, and the rest of their group were cleared immediately, Khan was allowed to go only after his hosts intervened and took up the issue with the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, according to sources.

Later talking to students, Khan, dressed in a chic black suit thanked Ambani for getting him to the US after a long flight. Then he was "detained at the airport as always", said Khan adding with a smile, "It was nice, as it always happens."

"Whenever I start feeling too arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America. The immigration guys kicked the star out of stardom," he said.

But he always has his "small victories" even in such circumstances, said Khan, who was detained at New York's Newark International airport in August 2009 too when he arrived to take part in an Independence Day event in Chicago.

"They (immigration officials) always ask me how tall I am and I always lie and say 5 feet 10 inches. Next time I am going to get more adventurous. (If they ask me) What colour are you, I am going to say white," he said.

However, he made no mention of the incident during a press conference or his lecture to a capacity crowd as he spoke to them about success and failure and how to live life to the fullest.

Encouraging young people to find fulfilment in creativity, to learn to laugh at themselves and to never become cynical about their lives, he said: "Failure is a fiendish friend that can lead to success by teaching one to be pragmatic, to work harder, and to be true to oneself."

But sources said Khan's detention at White Plains airport had caused "tense" moments for Khan and his team as they were "struggling" to get the situation sorted out.

Later, after the intervention by the Indian consulate in New York, the US Customs and Border Protection authorities expressed "profound" apology in a letter to the mission.

Khan's name was "flagged" in the system and airport people needed approval of 'senior' authorities to clear him, it clarified.

There was much anger in India over what Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajiv Shukla called “inappropriate and uncalled for,” detention of Khan. "I think whether it is Shah Rukh or former president of India (A.P.J. Abdul Kalam), if you know the identity of the person and if you have already established the identity of the person, then it is completely uncalled for and inappropriate," he said.

“It has become a policy of the US that first they do it and then they apologise,” said Shukla, while asking the US to review its security system.

However, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tried to play it down on Twitter, saying: "Honestly what's the big deal?? This airport detention thing happens all the time & to all sorts of people. Get over it."

SRK detained at New York airportvideo

(With inputs from PTI, IANS)

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