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Kerry 'regrets' treatment of Indian diplomat

US secretary of state phones India official to voice regret over female diplomat who was arrested and strip-searched.

Last updated: 18 Dec 2013 19:37
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The treatment of Khobragade lead to protests in India [EPA]

US Secretary of Sate John Kerry has called a top Indian official and voiced regret about the case of an Indian diplomat strip-searched after her arrest last week on charges of visa fraud.

The US State Department said on Wednesday that Kerry made the call and voiced his hope that the incident would not harm US-India relations.

Devyani Khobragade, a deputy consul general in New York, was arrested last week for allegedly paying a domestic worker a fraction of the minimum wage and for lying about the employee's salary in a visa application.

"As a father of two daughters about the same age as Devyani Khobragade, the Secretary empathises with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after Ms Khobragade's arrest," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a written statement.

"In his conversation with National Security Adviser [Shivshankar] Menon, he expressed his regret, as well as his concern that we not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India," Harf added.

The White House on Wednesday tried to quell the row with India that has been growing since it emerged that Khobragade was strip searched during her arrest, sparking a fierce backlash.

Cavity searched

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Washington understood why the issue was such a sensitive one in India, where there has been public outrage, but said the incident did not reflect the broad and healthy cooperation between the two countries.

"The United States and India enjoy a broad and deep friendship and this isolated episode is not indicative of the close and mutually respectful ties that we share," Carney said.

"We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India, and we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest, to ensure that all standard procedures were followed and that every opportunity for courtesy was extended."

An email from Khobragade says she had been repeatedly stripped and cavity-searched by the US authorities.

India ordered a range of measures in reprisal, including recalling identity cards for US consular officials, halting import clearances for the US embassy including for alcohol, and removing barricades outside the US mission in New Delhi.

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