Embassy Row: India strikes back over diplomat’s arrest

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India retaliated Tuesday over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York with a grab bag of punitive measures against U.S. diplomats, from demanding details on the pay of their domestic help to curtailing the import of liquor to the U.S. Embassy to making unspecified threats against gay diplomats, citing a Supreme Court ruling last week that makes homosexual acts a crime.

Bulldozers removed security barricades outside the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, and Indian officials demanded that diplomats surrender identity cards and airport passes. That move was seen as a first step toward reviewing other diplomatic privileges.

Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid warned of more measures to protest the arrest last week of Devyani Khobragade, the deputy consul-general in New York.

“Everything that can be done will be done,” Mr. Khurshid told reporters in New Delhi.

Ms. Khobragadewas arrested and handcuffed Thursday as she was taking one of her daughters to school.

The U.S. attorney in Manhattan accused her of fraudulently obtaining a visa for a domestic servant and paying her well below U.S. minimum wage. Indian officials claim police strip-searched and jailed her with drunks for about two hours before a magistrate released her on a $250,000 bond. She faces 10 years in prison if convicted.

A member of India’s Parliament threatened action against U.S. diplomats who have same-sex partners.

“The media has reported that we have issued visas to a number of U.S. diplomats’ ‘companions,’” said Yashwant Sinha, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, one of the two top political parties in India. “‘Companions’ mean that they are of the same sex. Now, after the Supreme Court ruling, it is completely illegal in our country.”

Rahul Gandhi, vice president of the Indian National Congress party; Meira Kumar, speaker of the lower house of Parliament; and Shiv Shankar Menon, the national security adviser, canceled meetings with a visiting U.S. congressional delegation to express their anger over the arrest.

The State Department insists that Ms. Khobragade’s diplomatic immunity extends only to her duties, such as issuing visas and passports.

IRANIANS STILL MISSING

Supporters of seven kidnapped Iranian dissidents in Iraq are stepping up pressure on the United States to identify their whereabouts and those who abducted them in a Sept. 1 raid on a camp in Iraq where they were supposed to have been under Iraqi protection.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, is still waiting for Secretary of State John F. Kerry to comply with a promise he made at a Dec. 10 hearing to give her a classified briefing about the six women and one man taken hostage in the raid on Camp Ashraf in northern Iraq.

Gunmen killed 52 of the camp’s residents after entering the compound, which was guarded by Iraqi security forces. More than 3,000 Iranian dissidents in Iraq held U.S. identification as protected persons under the Geneva Conventions.

Struan Stevenson, a member of the European Parliament who has led the European investigation into the hostages, called on Mr. Kerry to reveal whatever the United States knows about their condition.

“I was astonished when John Kerry told members of Congress that the whereabouts of the Iranian dissidents was classified,” he told Embassy Row.

In a letter to Mr. Kerry, Mr. Stevenson also questioned whether the Obama administration is abandoning the dissidents in order to secure a deal with Iran on its nuclear program.

Iran has long pursued the dissidents of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, declaring them traitors and terrorists.

Also this week, a court in Spain opened an investigation into Faleh Fayad, Iraq’s national security adviser, accusing him of crimes “against the international community” over his suspected role in the Camp Ashraf massacre.

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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