India Retaliating Against the US for Strip Searching their Diplomat

Tensions are high right now with India following the arrest of their consulate's acting head, who was handcuffed over visa fraud charges as she dropped her daughter off at a Manhattan school.

Authorities have accused Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general for political, economic, commercial and women’s affairs, of submitting false visa applications and lying about paying her nanny only $3 an hour.

Because visa fraud isn't covered under the Vienna convention, Khobragade wasn't given diplomatic immunity.

According to the Times, everything escalated when details that she was strip searched (some Indian reports say a cavity search) became public.

It is not unusual in India for domestic staff to be paid poorly and be required to work more than 60 hours a week; they are sometimes treated abominably. Reports of maids being imprisoned or abused by their employers are frequent.

But the idea of a middle-class woman being arrested and ordered to disrobe is seen as shocking. Airport security procedures in India provide separate lines for women, and any pat-down searches are performed behind curtains.

India's national security advisor called it "despicable and barbaric."

And now Indian officials are retaliating. Today, workers removed a maze of cement security barricades from in front of the American Embassy, saying the barricades were blocking traffic.

Officials also downgraded American diplomatic privileges, withdrawing airport passes, stopping import clearances — including alcohol — for the US embassy, and demanding that Consulate staff turn in their ID cards.

An opposition leader and former finance minister gave a TV statement advocating that all same-sex partners of diplomats be arrested in retaliation.

“The media has reported that we have issued visas to a number of U.S. diplomats’ companions. ‘Companions’ means that they are of the same sex,” Yashwant Sinha told NDTV. “It is completely illegal in our country. Just as paying less wages was illegal in the U.S. So, why doesn’t the government of India go ahead and arrest all of them? Put them behind bars, prosecute them in this country and punish them.”

The State Department gave a statement earlier today, saying that they were looking into the intake procedures to ensure appropriate procedures were followed. The US Marshals Service said the search was standard operating procedure.

[image via AP]