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Angry India Pulls Back US Embassy Security

In response to the alleged mistreatment of an Indian diplomat by American law enforcement officials, Indian authorities have taken a series of unprecedented steps to show their displeasure, including the removal of security barriers around the American embassy in New Delhi. The New York Times reports:

The diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, the deputy consul general in New York, was arrested last Thursday and accused of submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for her housekeeper and paying the housekeeper far less than the minimum legal wage. Indian officials said that Ms. Khobragade was arrested and handcuffed on the street as she was leaving her daughter at school, and that she was kept in a holding cell with drug addicts before she was released on $250,000 bail.

More infuriating for Indians was the allegation that Khobragade was strip-searched as well, later confirmed by American state officials.

Indian outrage over alleged mistreatment abroad is not new. It makes headlines every time celebrities like Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan and author Rohinton Mistry, a Canadian of Indian origin, are detained at airports. But the Indian response this time seems a tad over the top. The incident has been described as “a slap in the face of the country”, “barbaric” and “humiliating.” A politician even said gay American diplomats’ partners may be subject to arrest under India’s homosexuality laws. India has also downgraded American diplomats’ privileges and told them to turn in their identity cards. Both Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, normally on opposite sides of the political spectrum, refused to meet an American congressional delegation that was visiting.

Rhetoric is one thing, but American diplomats should be concerned to see that India has removed security barriers around the American embassy in New Delhi. Apart from compromising their security, the move may also contravene the Vienna Convention that reinforces host countries’ responsibility to protect diplomats.

The episode may blow over soon. Secretary of State John Kerry called the Indian national security advisor to express his “regret” over the incident. And governments rarely let tiffs like this sabotage important strategic partnerships. But during election season, politicians will use every tool available to look good, and anti-Americanism often plays very well.

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  • William Ockham

    Okay here’s a problem. When I go into Via Meadia through Google WRM’s daily comment are not available. If you click on commentators and then click on Mead you are directed to the Essay’s section where long form writings by WRM and other essayists are posted. But his shorter daily pieces are no longer no where available. The only way that I can find then is to go to the Walter Russell Mead wiki article and the back into Via Meadia from there where his daily comments are posted. This is a major inconvenience and must cut down on your traffic. Please fix it.

    • Andrew Allison

      It’s William of [wink] and there’s a handy link at the top right of the pages for comments unrelated to the content.

    • free_agent

      Well, “http: //www. the-american-interest. com/” works for me. (Pardon the spaces in that, I want to make sure it shows as text.)

  • Andrew Allison

    I fear that TF has missed the point. Does it not occur to you that the the strip-and-cavity searching of an accredited diplomat accused of a civil offense represents a police state run amok?

    • Corlyss

      I dunno how they got away with it after she flashed her Diplo identity. NYPD is more sophisticated than that. On the other hand, having put up with all kinds of malpractice by Diplomats in the DC area for 48 years, I had to smile just a tad.

      • Andrew Allison

        NYPD thinks it’s above the law! Keep smiling while your cavity is being searched LOL

    • free_agent

      I’m no expert, but my understanding is that consuls do not have the same sort of immunity that diplomats do.

      • Andrew Allison

        I’m not suggesting immunity from the law, just that the strip-and-cavity-search of a consular official for an alleged visa violation is a sign of an out-of-control police force. Should our consular officials abroad expect no better treatment?

  • Doug

    Apparently in addition to the strip search, the diplomat was subjected to a body cavity search. All you have to ask yourself is how you would feel if a US diplomat were treated like this in some foreign country. Apprently, too, this arrest was approved by the State Department since she was an accredited diplomat. IMHO, heads should roll for this, starting with Mr. Kerry’s.

    • Andrew Allison

      I beg to differ. The problem is that the NYPD didn’t feel the need to check with anybody before they did a strip-and-cavity search of an accredited diplomat. We need to regain control of our out-of-control security state.

  • Maynerd

    Much like the NSA our LEO’s are out of control. Most recently gunning down a depressed mom in DC and thrashing the constitution during the Boston bombing ineffective house to house cluster search. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MezLoczjfY .

    The LEO’s and their supervisors that conducted and sanctioned this violation of the Indian diplomat should be terminated post haste.

    But don’t hold your breath. Our esteemed congressmen hailed the heroes of DC for protecting them from a young depressed unarmed mother. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlyTOSEPJGI

    • Corlyss

      You and Andrew will be the first to howl at our next 9/11. That was a direct result of the execrable mess the Church committee and its “reforms” forced on the intel community. John Miller wrote in The Cell that prior to 9/11 CIA’s mantra was “Little cases, little problems. Big cases, big problems. No cases, no problems.” The Church committee effectively emasculated American intelligence. There followed almost immediately catastrophic intel failures beginning with Beirut in 1983, right on up to 9/11. I’m going to remind you of what you wished for when the next blow-up happens if the Congress is stupid enough to put these reforms in place.

      • Maynerd

        You don’t address the constitutional abuse of the Boston storm troopers or the senseless killing of an unarmed mom in DC. If fear of terrorism is your penultimate priority, North Korea is lovely this time of year.

        Our current policies of domestic surveillance have significant potential for political blackmail and abuse. In my opinion the NSA is a long term bigger threat to our way of life than terrorists.

        • Corlyss

          You’re over-reacting.

          • Maynerd

            “You’re over-reacting”

            Please tell that to the family of Miriam Carey. You seem comfortable to have other peoples’ rights trampled to satisfy your illusion of safety.

      • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

        I am dismayed most of all at the failure of the government to get beyond political correctness and appropriately identify the enemy. We avert our eyes *today* and endanger american security *today* by not appropriately treating the judicial decisions of muslim religious courts that impose the death penalty on american citizens.

        Peaceful muslims who do not follow these courts should be left alone and those who do follow them are a danger and need to be treated as such. The details might be appropriately secret but a few basic bits of information should be widely known public knowledge. How many of these courts are there? Which ones, specifically, are a threat? Do we treat support for these violent religious courts as excludable criteria for coming into the US?

        We do not do these things because our current regime is imposing political correctness and we are on the road to another 9/11 because of it. The programs that people are objecting to are a rube goldberg apparatus designed to give us the best defense consistent with maintaining our PC attitude. Getting rid of the PC and the rube goldberg compensation structures on net increases security. We should do it, for the children.

  • Jim Sweet

    The US should apologize for the cavity search. It should immediately expel this “diplomat” with a bar to reentry. Slavers need not apply to come here. Her victim should be given legal resident status and full support from our government.

  • free_agent

    You write, “But the Indian response this time seems a tad over the top.”

    It seems to me that the core value-providing proposition for this entry would be to clearly explain *why* this is seen as so outrageous in India. Actually, I’d like to seen an explanation of why she was arrested in the first place. Usually fraudulent paperwork doesn’t land you in jail until you’re convicted.

  • Freddie Sykes

    I always thought that diplomats, unlike Bollywood stars, had immunity from arrest and, if they are charged with crimes, it was up to the State Department to determine whether or not they were still welcome in our country. You may decide that India is over-reacting but the fact is we did handle the initial situation very undiplomatically.

  • manofsan

    Technically, pulling back those security barriers is not a violation of the Vienna Convention, since none of the other embassies have those barriers. Treating the US embassy in the same way that other embassies are treated is no violation of the Vienna Convention.

    The whole reason this happened is because India felt its diplomat was treated very poorly, and that this poor treatment reflected a complete lack of regard for India by the US. The US had effectively made a statement about its low regard for India through its treatment of Indian personnel.

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