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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Duty-free imports to US embassy face curbs

Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 30, 2013
First Published: 00:28 IST(30/12/2013) | Last Updated: 10:58 IST(8/1/2014)

New Delhi has questioned “commercial activities” being carried out in the US embassy which could lead to a freeze on duty-free imports, as the standoff between the two countries over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York continues.

Upset over the ill-treatment of Devyani Khobragade who was arrested and later released on bail on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her domestic help, New Delhi feels that duty-free import facilities are being misused by “non-diplomatic personnel”, including private firms and friends of the US embassy.

Read: Khobragade row may have been errors of judgment, says US

The US extended no such privileges to another country, it told Washington, conveying the decision to move against “non-reciprocal” concessions.

Read: Khobragade case: Strong Indian response shocks US officials

Those who avail the American Community Support Association (ACSA) facilities are allowed a bottle of hard liquor, two of wine and 12 cans of beer a week at a much lower price than the market rate as these are duty free.

The ACSA members also get access to Out of India restaurant, Delhi Diner Snacks bar, the Great Escape bar, Windward Café Poolside Bar and a cafeteria on payable basis. They also enjoy free use of a gymnasium, swimming pool, bowling alley and a tennis court. 

India also pointed to certain queries in the ACSA membership form. One of the questions is about the nature of the non-diplomatic duty of the applicant, who is also asked to submit letter from the company certifying employment and duration of stay.

Read: Devyani row: US embassy was a let-down, says govt

Delhi has also cited special affiliate membership as another instance of misuse of privileges. The US embassy spokesperson didn’t reply to HT email seeking its response.

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