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Marshals should apologise for episode: Ex-diplomat

world Updated: Dec 21, 2013 00:38 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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A former India hand at the state department has said the US Marshals Service should apologize to the Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade for strip-searching her.

“It may have been by the book, but it has unnecessarily aggravated an already extremely sensitive and delicate situation,” wrote Alyssa Ayers in her blog on Thursday.

Ayers argued that there is precedent for this kind of formal apology -- the Transport Security Administration chief John Pistole apologizing to former president Abdul Kalam.

The TSA had screened the former president in 2011.

“An apology at this juncture is the right thing to do, and at minimum, it would help give space on both sides for the diplomatic channel to deal with the critical—and inherently difficult—issues at stake in this case,” she argued.

Ayers headed the India desk at the US state department till some weeks ago, leaving to focus on studies. She is currently with a DC think tank, Council on Foreign Relations.

India has demanded an apology, but it’s not clear who it wants to hear it from. It rejected secretary of state John Kerry’s expression of regret earlier this week as not sufficient.

And that didn’t go down well here in the US, just the fact Kerry regretted it. “It was puzzling that Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement on Wednesday expressing regret for the incident,” said The New York Times in an editorial.

“All diplomats, including Ms. Khobragade, presumably are made aware of their legal obligations and American procedures before accepting an assignment in the United States.”

Will the US Marshals Service apologize and end this stand-off?

The USMS has been under pressure to explain itself on the way Khobragade was treated in its custody. She has alleged she was subjected to cavity and strip searching. And that she was help in cell with other prisoners and inmates.

The USM first issued a statement confirming Khobragade was strip searched, as are all inmates and prisoners, for their own safety and that of the others.

And it also confirmed the diplomat was held in a cell with other inmates, saying that is the practice. But the agency has denied cavity-searching her, in a statement on Thursday.

It has done everything by the book, it has insisted. But, as Ayers has argued, an apology at this juncture may be the right thing to do.