The government extended an olive branch to the US on Saturday, deporting a US citizen — whose name features in a look out circular (LOC) — to Nepal instead of arresting him.
The move is being read as an attempt to defuse the ongoing diplomatic tussle with Washington, which has issued an advisory to its citizens travelling to or residing in India to “be mindful of their personal security” in the wake of India’s protests against the arrest of diplomat Devyani Khobragade.
Scott Daniel Turner, 42, entered India from Nepal around 4pm on Saturday through Ranigunj International Immigration Check Post, which is in Darjeeling district in the northern part of Bengal.
While scanning his documents, the authorities realised Turner had an LOC against him. Such circulars issued by the home affairs ministry are maintained at all entry points to the country. Persons featuring in LOCs usually have criminal antecedents and are prohibited from entering India.
Turner, a resident of Minnesota in the US, was detained. During interrogation, Turner said he had chosen the route – arriving by road from Nepal – because it was the best option. Turner admitted he had feared airports would not be safe for him.
The police received a directive from the Foreigners Regional Registration Office, Kolkata, to impound Turner’s Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card and deport him back to Nepal, where he will report to the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.
The Indian Embassy will then deport him to the US. Usually, a person whose name features in the LOC is arrested.
“We impounded his PIO card and handed him to the Nepal Police around 5pm,” said Darjeeling superintendent of police Kunal Agarwal.
Turner had a US passport but no visa, as he owned a PIO card. The holder of a PIO card can visit India without a visa if the person intends to stay for less than 180 days.
Turner had secured the card after his marriage to an Indian —Elina Turner, alias Kinny, a resident of Nagaland. Turner had first visited India in 2004. He married Elina in 2009 before returning to the US.
The Darjeeling Police could not shed any light on why Turner’s name was in the LOC.
The conciliatory move by the Indian government comes after days of diplomatic tug of war with the US over Khobragade’s arrest.
While the US has refused to apologise, India has mounted pressure for immunity to the diplomat arrested for allegedly lying on the US visa application for her Indian domestic help.