Even as New Delhi prepared to lodge a strong objection with the US government on ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar, being subjected to a full “pat down” airport screening, Washington claimed under its laws, diplomats were not exempt from body searches.
Shankar was subjected to a rigorous public “pat-down” at the Jackson-Ever International airport after visiting Mississippi State University on Wednesday.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna on Thursday said the indignity Shankar was subjected to was unacceptable. “We are going to take it up with the US to ensure such unpleasant incidents do not recur,” Krishna told reporters outside Parlia-ment. “There are certain well-established practices on how members of diplomatic corps are treated in any country.”
The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) responded by saying diplomats were regularly searched under US security rules. Shankar “was screened in accordance with TSA’s security policies and procedures”, spokesman Nicholas Kimball said. But screening officers can exercise discretion on the nature of the search.
Shankar underwent a search once before, said Indian sources.
“I am rather surprised by the way the Indian ambassador to the US has been treated,” said Krishna. He pointed out India had a “very cordial relationship” with the US and hoped this would be taken forward.
However, there is little expectation of the US changing its rules as this would then apply to all diplomats in the US. Shankar did not protest either of the searches, sources said.
According to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Shankar was singled out from a queue of 30 passengers and taken aside for the search. Witnesses claimed she was picked upon as she was wearing a sari.