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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

Khurshid wants ‘friend’ US to drop case against Khobragade

HT Correspondent and Agencies  New Delhi, December 19, 2013
First Published: 14:19 IST(19/12/2013) | Last Updated: 14:37 IST(19/12/2013)

India wants to ensure the furore over the arrest and strip-search of a female diplomat in New York does not do lasting harm to its "valuable relationship" with the US, foreign minister Salman Khurshid said on Thursday.

"I can't believe that either side wants to put at risk a very valuable relationship in which we have made an enormous investment," Salman Khurshid told a TV channel.

"Things happen between friends, even things that are terrible.

"The whole thing about friendship is that it survives, survives the test of this nature."

Khurshid was speaking the day after US secretary of state John Kerry spoke with India's National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon to try to ease tensions sparked by last Thursday's arrest of New York-based diplomat Devyani Khobragade.

Khurshid, however, said the case against Khobragade should not be pursued and withdrawn by the US authorities. Khurshid said he had received a call from US secretary of state John Kerry last night but he was not available at that time.

“I was not available when John Kerry called. We are trying to log a time for a call this (Thursday) evening. Kerry is in the Philippines and there is a huge time difference,” he said.

“I have sought details of what happened in the case of the diplomat,” he said, asserting that the matter should not be pursued and be withdrawn.

“Our relationship has a lot of investment, it is not an irreversible matter and we have to deal with it sensibly,” the minister said.

The 39-year-old, who is now free on bail, was detained over allegations that she paid a domestic worker a fraction of the minimum wage and lied about the employee's salary in a visa application.

Her arrest and subsequent revelations that she was strip-searched have caused outrage in India. It prompted the government to take a series of reprisals, including the removal of protective barricades outside the American embassy in New Delhi.

In an email to colleagues Khobragade wrote that she was repeatedly strip-searched and then subjected to a cavity search.

However Preet Bharara, the US federal prosecutor handling her case, has insisted Khobragade was arrested in the "most discreet" way possible, was never handcuffed and was searched by a female deputy marshal in private.

Khurshid, who on Wednesday pledged to bring Khobragade back home at any price, reiterated his criticism at what he called the "irrational and unacceptable behaviour" of US authorities and voiced a sense of hurt.

"When the emotions run high, when there is a sense of hurt...then obviously you are called upon to do a little more than you'd do in normal times," he said.

A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade was arrested on December 12 on visa fraud charges as she was dropping her daughter to school and released on a $250,000 bond only after pleading not guilty in court.

The ill-treatment of the its diplomat evoked a sharp reaction from India which initiated a slew of steps to downgrade the privileges enjoyed by the US diplomats and their families including withdrawing airport passes and stopping import clearances.


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