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Kalam frisked: India to take up issue with US at 'highest level'

delhi Updated: Nov 13, 2011 14:36 IST
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Outraged at former President APJ Abdul Kalam being subjected to frisking for explosives at New York's JFK Airport, India on Sunday threatened retaliatory action against US dignitaries unless such "unacceptable" practices were stopped.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna spoke to Indian Ambassador to US Nirupama Rao and directed her to take up the matter in writing at the "highest level" with Washington after a report emerged that Kalam was frisked in New York on September 29 before boarding an Air India flight.

A detailed report about the incident was sent to the aviation ministry by Satish Mathur, director, security, AI.

"The incident report was sent to the aviation ministry," said Mathur but refused to comment further.

A ministry official told Hindustan Times: "While US officials can check anyone in their country as the Indian exemption list is not applicable there, they should accord the same treatment we give visiting US dignitaries like a former president (George W Bush) who was here last week."

"Protests were lodged by the ministries of external affairs and civil aviation and we have received an apology. The US authorities have also ordered an inquiry," the official said.

The two sides are now working on a 'common list' of people who will be exempted from security checks.

Even after Kalam was seated, the US security personnel forced the crew to open the door and took away the jacket and boots of the former president to check for explosives since they had forgotten to do so before his boarding.

Officials said the Minister has also sought a detailed report on the incident from its mission into the incident which they said was unacceptable.

80-year-old Kalam was in the United States in September to attend a series of events and the incident took place while he was returning home from New York on September 29.

Sources said after Kalam had taken his seat in the aircraft, officials of the JFK Airport came inside and said they wanted to check the former President once again, which was strongly protested by Air India authorities.

However, the Airport authorities were adamant about searching the passengers again, the sources said, adding Kalam did not protest.

"Later, they took away his shoes and jacket much to the dissatisfaction of the Air India authorities.

However, they returned them later," the sources said.

Sources close to Kalam said he doesn't give much thought to such incidents and never complains about them.

However, this time, his office informed the Ministry of External Affairs about the incident after he returned home.

A detailed report on the incident was prepared by Air India's Director (Security) S Mathur and sent to the Civil Aviation Ministry which in turn forwarded it to the External Affairs Ministry in October.

"As the incident happened on the American soil, I have been informed that US security agencies are investigating it now. Such incidents should not happen," Civil Aviation Secretary Nasim Zaidi told PTI

An External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said officials of both the countries were working on ways to avoid recurrence of such incidents in future, including preparing a common list of VIPs.

This is not the first time that Kalam has been subjected to such frisking. In June 2009, he was frisked and forced to remove his shoes during security check by a US airline.

The incident had created much uproar both inside and outside Parliament.

(With inputs from PTI)