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India attempts to calm anti-US tensions

India's foreign minister insists diplomatic row should not derail "strong" ties with the United States.

Last updated: 21 Dec 2013 16:22
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Khurshid previously called the arrest "unacceptable" [EPA]

India has tried to defuse a growing diplomatic conflict with the United States, damping down its initial uproar over the arrest and strip-search of one of its diplomats in New York.

The country's foreign minister on Saturday insisted the episode should not be allowed to derail "strong" ties with the United States.

Salman Khurshid said a dialogue with Washington was under way to defuse the crisis sparked by the 48-hour detention of deputy consular general Devyani Khobragade on December 12.

"Our relationship is that of partners. Our mutual relations are very strong," Khurshid told reporters in New Delhi.

"I believe people in both the countries wouldn't want the old ties we share to get unsettled by this one incident," he said

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"I speak to America through diplomatic channels and my diplomatic channels have been interrupted. That is my concern," he added.

At the same time, Khurshid warned that the US "must understand the value of partnership".

It is a milder approach than the one he adopted on Friday when he termed the treatment of 39-year-old Khobragade by US Marshals as "hurtful" and "unacceptable".

The diplomat, a mother of two, now free on bail, was arrested over accusations that she lied about the salary she was paying her Indian servant in a US visa application.

Increasing immunity

According to New York authorities, she was paying the domestic worker a third of the figure mentioned in the visa application.

But her treatment has caused outrage in India, with people ransacking American chain stores and restaurants in India demanding the removal of American products.

The two countries' ties have warmed considerably since they were on opposite sides of the fence during the Cold War.

They now participate in joint security exercises and Washington sees India as a valuable strategic partner in the troubled region.

India is trying to secure stronger diplomatic immunity for Khobragade by shifting her to its UN mission in New York, although such a move needs State Department approval.

The Press Trust of India reported on Saturday the UN had received a notice from India to register Khobragade as a member of the Permanent Mission, adding the request would be processed according to "standard procedures".

However, a spokeswoman for the State Department made clear in a briefing late this week that there could be no retroactive immunity for Khobragade.

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